Thursday, September 8, 2016

How The Lorax Can Win

By Tyler Socash
IG: @tylerhikes

"Oh sweet Canada-Canada-Canada..."

The familiar melodic call of a white-throated sparrow wasn't the only thing that signaled my homecoming to the northeast.  Exiting Cheshire, MA, the balsam firs and red spruce tree returned in full force as I gained elevation.  Twilight sun rays cascaded through their healing balms.  Mirrored in the glowing sunshine, I felt blessed by great soul-stirring calm.  Mount Greylock's summit was a sight to behold.  For a fleeting moment, I was home.

With a sunset sweeping the skyline I barely noticed the road and mountaintop traffic jam.  Snap back to reality.

On top of Massachusetts

Yet another road.  Yet another noisy access point.  After walking 1,585 miles to this spot from Springer Mountain in Georgia, one thing has been the bane of my AT trek: an encroaching hum of civilization in the natural world.  

Not too far from this spot in Upstate New York, Russell M.L. Carson expressed his concern with an increasingly urbanized society in the early 1900's:

"In all our thinking about recreational development, we ought constantly to remember that wilderness and natural beauty are the real charm of the Adirondacks, and that preservation is as much our objective as helping more people to share our joy in them."

Is wilderness valued by the average American?  The double edge sword of conservation is certainly a conundrum.  In order for people to be passionate about our wild places, they need to have a positive experience in one.  Once you introduce people to a sacred space, it can become overused.  Can a better balance between outdoor accessibility and "wildness" be reached without marginalizing the luxury of the forest?

Aldo Leopold argued in A Sand County Almanac that, "we can be ethical only in relation to something we can see, feel, understand, love, or otherwise have faith in."

When I hiked my first big mountain (Cascade) on December 22nd, 2006, I immediately knew that I found my element.  Only 3 years later my mom asked me what I loved most, to which I instantly shouted, "Hiking!"  For 10 straight years I have recreated in the great outdoors, basking in nature's splendor.  The connection I made with nature 10 years ago endures and burns brighter today.  Luckily, the last 550 miles of the Appalachian Trail would reinvigorate my passion for exploring our country's wild side.  Jaded feelings of a reduced wilderness experience diminished as I came upon my final three states of my yearlong journey. 

As the Appalachian Trail entered Vermont, it overlaps with the Long Trail for 105 miles.  Roads and civilization became less prevalent as one becomes swept away by the Green Mountains.  Peaks like Glastenbury, Stratton, and Bromley provide inspiring views which remind you why you started the AT in the first place.  

Bromley's summit provided us with a stellar sunrise/sunset combination that was not surpassed on the east coast.  

Appalachian Trail splendor

I really enjoyed the AT as I made it further north.  Before reaching Killington, I caught an amazing view of the my hometown mountains in New York.  On the summit of Killington, I finally made it above 4,000ft. for the first time since Virginia.  At this elevation, among the cinquefoil and alpine krummholz, I feel a tranquil sensation of peace.  As I reached the latitude of the Adirondacks, I knew my journey would only last one more month.  What a year it has been!

Allow me to share some objective facts...

• The Appalachain Trail is nearly 500 miles shorter than the Pacific Crest Trail.  

• The Appalachian Trail has more total elevation gain than the entire Pacific Crest Trail. 

• The Pacific Crest Trail crosses 7 National Parks and 48 Wilderness Areas. 

• The Appalachian Trail crosses 2 National Parks and 25 Wilderness Areas (mostly in Virginia). 

Now let me share a subjective statement... The Appalachian Trail is harder than the Pacific Crest Trail.  

This is counter-intuitive for most people because the PCT has 700+ miles of desert walking and less reliable water sources.  Well no kidding, that's why it's called a desert!  

I found the AT to be much more demanding, both physically and emotionally!  The elevation gain was so unexpected!  The lack of large-scale wilderness areas was saddening.  However, NOBO's do save the best part of the thru-hike for last...

New Hampshire & Maine!

After receiving unexpected trail magic from my friend Libby Nichols in the form of a watermelon and M&M's, I crossed the Connecticut River and walked into my penultimate state.  On the corner of Dartmouth's campus, I came to a familiar spot...

Hanover's AT plaque

During a work trip two years earlier, I came upon this plaque unexpectedly.  "One day, I am going to walk here from Georgia," a previous version of myself promised.  

When I arrived there this time, I knelt down and kissed the plaque.  Onlookers stopped and stared. 

I had never been to the White Mountains before.  If you hike the AT you'll walk right through them en route to Maine.  Sticking to the white blazes (and adding out-and-back side trips to maintain my purist trek) I climbed 26 of New Hampshire's 48 4,000 footers.  Here are a few glimpses...




I was fortunate enough to stay at the Mount Washington Observatory for the night while hiking across the Presidential Range.  Yes, Mount Washington also has a road (and a cog railway) leading to its summit.  Staying at the Observatory, however provided me with the opportunity to be on the mountain without the crowds.  FYI: You will have to wait in a queue of humans to get your summit picture on Mount Washington.  Get there before the road and railway are open!

How many more mountains must we defile before we can strike a fair compromise between wilderness and access?  Blue Mountain in the Adirondack Mountains will be the next mountain with road access to the summit unless we do something about it.  The Adirondack Park (like most of the developed world) is already road-laden.  There are already 6,970 miles of public road in the Adirondacks, with most of these miles leading one to an accessible vista or recreational area.  We don't need more.

Last month I made a small contribution to help preserve Landers Meadow along the Pacific Crest Trail.  Now, instead of the land being developed, crucial habitat will be preserved for all to enjoy forever.  We often forget that foxes, birds, frogs, coyotes, mountain lions, and prairie dogs need places to sleep, too.  I hope to continue to support open space preservation in years to come.  If we all band together, we may see more wilderness areas protected in the future. 

I'm about to talk about hiking in Maine, but if preserving wild spaces is an interest of yours, you can check out

We have a chance to enhance the Adirondack High Peak Wilderness!  Please check it out and send a quick email to The Adirondack Park Agency (it's a simple link on the website).

Maine is often cited as the best part of the Appalachian Trail.  I enjoyed everything north of the Delaware River, personally, but no one can deny the grandeur of Maine's woods.  Much like in New Hampshire, I made the appropriate detours to climb all 14 of Maine's 4,000 footers.  I even met a wonderful group of aspiring Northeast 111 hikers (climbing all of the 111 4,000 footers in the northeast) while near the summit of Spaulding.  I saw this same group a day later from Bigelow West.  It was nice to converse with avid peak baggers while enjoying our first view of Katahdin!

Katahdin, a MacGuffin of sorts, is something that AT NOBO's talk about every day.  When I finally saw the end destination, I was awestruck.  I knew I could do it, but actually making it to this point was still unbelievable.  Thru-hikes have a 25% completion rate.  Barring an injury in the next week, I would be completing what I set out to do.  Three thru-hikes!  Statistically, a 1.56% chance of success.  And here I was, on the cusp of finishing them all.  I was reminded of Billy Goat from the PCT... "Once you get to the end of a thru-hike, you have to say, 'Well, I guess I'll go home now.'"  Bittersweet?

There was so much that I enjoyed about the AT in Maine.  I loved the Mahoosuc Notch (toughest mile on the Appalachian Trail - including some snowy patches in July), I loved the 4,000 footers, I loved stopping by the towns of Rangeley, Caratunk, and Monson.  I loved staying at Shaw's Hiker Hostel.  I loved the 100 Mile Wilderness.  Maine was awesome.  The greenery goes on for miles and miles.  It was as impressive as my experience out west.  When I finally arrived at Baxter State Park, the ranger informed me that I was NOBO #127 to enter the park.  When I left Amicalola Falls 88 days earlier I was NOBO #1,697.  My thru-hike was nearly complete.

Joined by my brother-in-law Riley, my sister Nikki, and my niece, I started up the Hunt Trail to Katahdin's summit on July 26th.  Only Riley and I pressed onward through the wind and the rain.  Katahdin turns out to be quite the difficult climb!!!  When we got to the top, I had quite the emotional moment...



Riley and I continued north of Katahdin to summit Hamlin, and then returned to Katahdin one final time to exit via the Knife's Edge...


I was on trail for 11 months total in the last year.  The PCT took exactly 4 months.  Te Araroa was just over 4 months.  The Appalachian Trail was just under 3 months (89 days).  The Calendar Year was a success!

A few facts...

• I saw more snakes in Maine (5) than I saw on the entire PCT (4).

• I only did laundry twice on the AT.  Thanks Mike & Jess Downey in Virginia and Michael Beckley in New York!  Sorry everyone else. 

• I only used three fuel canisters along the AT.  

• I ate cold oatmeal and a Pop-Tart for breakfast every single day on the AT.

So... What's next?

I am currently working as the Wilderness Trip Leader for the Adirondack Mountain Club.  I'm going to do a lot of adventuring this year, and more importantly, I want to become a better steward of our recreational areas.  Land ethic and land preservation mean a lot to me now.  After walking across America a couple times, I now understand how crucial land and habitat protection is!  Regardless of the presence or absence of an economic advantage for us, we need to preserve our remaining wild lands.

It's sort of poetic, right?  Local boy climbs local mountains.  Boy leaves, hikes around the world.  Boy returns, and wants to protect his local mountains. 

I memorized The Lorax while walking the PCT after walking through Washington's massive clear cuts.  I was stirred.  But as Laura Waterman points out in Wilderness Ethics, the Lorax invariably loses.  In the end, all of the Truffula Trees are gone, the Brown Bar-ba-loots, Swomee Swans, and Humming Fish have departed.  

Some of my posts have been shouted from a shaky soap box.  When I take up writing again, I want to avoid writing in a voice that is sharpish and bossy.  The Lorax loses because he fails to start a dialogue with all concerned parties.  He fails to educate the masses buying Thneeds, and only shouts at the irritable Once-ler seeking a profit.  What people don't understand, they'll never know.  Sometimes what people don't know, they fear.  The venerable Jedi Master Yoda once warned that, "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering."  We need to promote an understanding of why our remaining wild areas are necessary.  Wilderness shouldn't be something to fear, but to embrace.  The beauty of our wild country is not just an environmental necessity, it's a part of our American identity.

I argued on an Adirondack Almanac Facebook post recently that the Forever Wild lands of the Adirondacks do not need more logging to create more snowmobile trails.  Shouts of "granola crunching youths" and "tree huggers" emanated from people who likely haven't  had a positive and truly wild wilderness experience.

No, hiking the three trails did not turn me into a hippie.  Hiking the three trails simply opened my eyes to the natural world on a grand scale.  Now I want to protect it.  But shouting opinions online certainly won't change anyone's mind.

Instead of shouting at the Once-lers of the world, I intend to be educating from the ground up.  I'm surrounded in Lake Placid by friends who also appreciate the outdoors.  They engage in sustainable farming practices, poop in the woods properly, pick up microtrash along the trails, protect the fragile alpine vegetation above 4,000 feet.  I need to be more like these educators.  I hope I can educate others through my daily actions and practices.  And if we happen to preserve the Boreas Ponds Tract as "wilderness," that would be an added bonus. 

My sister handed me a copy of Love Does by Bob Goff when I finished the AT.  It wasn't too long afterward that I saw my PCT friend Harpo donate money to save Landers Meadow.  My Uncle Mike counseled me through a stressful car-buying experience (I followed through this time).  My family organized a Olympic-themed camping trip for us all to enjoy.  My former College Admissions colleagues came out to meet me when I was in Rochester for the day.  My hiking friends organized an Adirondack camping trip for me on the heels of Katahdin.  That's what love does – it pursues blindingly, unflinchingly, and without end.

I can shout all I want, but in order to see a positive change in conservation, I need to start by communicating my love for nature through my actions.  

A slightly more self-actualized version of myself has returned from the woods.  I'm excited to share my passion for the outdoors with you all.  Stay tuned.

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It's not."

Stay Wild,

Tyler "Future Dad" Socash

* * *

Yesterday I returned to my office at 4,000ft.  I was hiking for leisure up one of the Adirondack High Peaks when I noticed unburied toilet tissue spread across the woods near a summit.  This has been a recurring issue in high use areas.  People simply don't know that they should bury their feces and toilet tissue by digging a 6-8 inch cathole with a trowel over 150 feet away from water sources and trails.  This maximizes decomposition of waste while also minimizing unwanted animal and insect contact.  Next time you hike, recognize how you feel when you inevitably cross paths with someone else's used toilet paper. 

The summits of the 4,000 mountains are my sanctuary.  Yes, like John Muir and Edward Abbey would say, much like a spiritual place of worship.  You wouldn't poop in your local church/temple/mosque vestibule without cleaning up after yourself, would you?!

I picked up the trash I was comfortable carrying and sat down to enjoy the view.  Suddenly, the familiar figure of a white-throated sparrow came hopping towards my friend Devin and me.  Balsam firs and red spruce trees surrounded us at this elevation.  Afternoon sun rays cascaded through their healing balms.  Mirrored in the glowing sunshine, I felt blessed by great soul-stirring calm.  Phelps Mountain's summit was a sight to behold.  For a moment, I was simply so glad to be home.  Now it's time to get to work, time to make a difference, time to act.  It's time to get my hands dirty.  Might as well start with this poop!

Because after all, "love" isn't talking about how you care about something.  Love does.

A Place Worth Fighting For

If you've enjoyed this blog, check out Harpo and Groucho's "Wrong Way Gang" journey down the Continental Divide Trail:

Also, if you are interested in the Pacific Crest Trail, look up "A Walk With Mud" by Anna Herby.  Check it out on Amazon. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016


By Tyler Socash
IG: @tylerhikes

The Four State Challenge had claimed its first victim.  With 10 miles remaining in our 43.5-mile quest, our group of five was reduced to four.  Those left standing were fading fast...

Before we reveal what happened to our fallen comrade, we've got to rewind for a second.

I actually heard about the Four State Challenge while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  Traveling across Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and into Pennsylvania in 24 hours had a sadistic allure that I could not shake.  After failing the 24-24-24 drinking challenge in California, I had to mentally move on to another.  The Four State Challenge would be my shot at redemption.  

Luckily, I was able to recruit four willing souls to join me on this endeavor.  All of them happen to be former University of Rochester Cross Country teammates of mine.  Each of them is a wonderful combination of part competitive athlete, part goofball.  They are weapons of endurance.  Above all, these are the type of handsome men that anyone would want to make memories with.  

Jon, Craig, Brian, and Tyle join me at the first border crossing 

The first thing you have to know about the Four State Challenge is that the sign in the photograph above is misleading.  According to Google Maps, the actual Virginia-West Virginia border is 20 yards east.  We walked together until we fully crossed the state line before officially starting this journey at 8:30am.  Upon setting foot in West Virginia, we sang the University of Rochester alma mater, The Genesee.  This is a standard URXC tradition, and I'm glad with continued it throughout the day.  I'm also very thankful for Craig's thoughtfulness in bringing a case of Mountain Dews. 

"Full many fair and famous streams beneath the sun there be,
Yet more to us than any seems our own dear Genesee.
We love thy banks and stately falls for to our minds they bring,
Our dear old alma mater's halls where sweetest memories cling!"

Singing these lyrics across the cataracts of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, I hoped these words weren't sacrilegious.

Our brief jaunt through West Virginia included a stop into the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters.  I got my thru-hiker picture taken, which will be on display in the Class of 2016 yearbook, and we met another U of R alum working in the office.  

More interestingly, we walked through the historic town of Harpers Ferry.  John Brown led a raid on the arsenal here in a bold effort to initiate an armed slave revolt in 1859.  While the raid was squashed faster than my AT speed record attempt, John Brown's actions were a catalyst for great changes to come in the following decade.  I've always been interested in John Brown, as I've visited his final resting place in Lake Placid, NY on numerous occasions. 

ATC Headquarters in Harpers Ferry, WV

Washington Monument in Maryland

Our virile quintuplet crossed into Maryland triumphantly singing The Genesee once more.  With complete disregard for the task at hand, we took liberties exploring seemingly harmless side trips.  Maryland's Washington Monument comes to mind, as does an unwarranted pit stop at a restroom to take a photograph...  We even danced uncontrollably as we crossed the overpass of I-70.  My apologies to anyone sensitive to indecent exposure. 


Men on a mission, we decided to pick up the pace.  The weather forecast called for biblical rains, incessant winds, and hail.  This prediction finally caught up to us.  Omnipotent forces (i.e. a cold front) attempted to smite us down.  The trail turned into raging rapids. 

 The beginning of the storm

Thankfully we were spared, but as darkness fell fatigue really set in.  All of those little side trips really did take a toll on us.  Jon, after what I assume was a direct result of back-to-back excessive bachelor/bachelorette partying with Craig & Courtney and 12-hour EMT shifts, was the first to succomb to the Four State Challenge's might.  He fought valiantly, but we had to barge into a full AT shelter at 11:30am to lay him down.  "We'll be back in 3 hours to retrieve him," I promised the rudely awakened thru-hikers.  They were very accommodating.  

Craig, Brian, Tyle, and I had 10 more miles to go.  These miles included a massive boulder field.  

Authentic grimace by Craig depicts our toil

We tried to keep our spirits up as Pennsylvania drew near.  Brian was starting to become incoherent as we arrived at Pen Mar Park and the Mason Dixon Line.  18 hours and 52 minute later, we did it!


Craig was thoughtful enough to have a manly dessert waiting for us at his car.  A cake with pink frosting!  What a guy.  To Craig, Brian, Jon, and Tyle, thank you for being a highlight of this Calendar Year!  

Two days later, and day 40 overall since Springer Mountain in Georgia, I made it to Pine Grove Furnace Park and the halfway point of the Appalachian Trail!  It took 60 minutes, but I did manage to complete the illustrious Half Gallon Ice Cream Challenge.  Someone claimed to eat the entire half gallon in 19 minutes earlier this year!  We really are ravenous. 

Pennsylvania, while emotionally difficult due to the amount of rocks on trail and a complete absence of wilderness, did include new characters...

Blacksmith, Shoe, and California Chrome all completed the Half Gallon Challenge with me.  Elle was also there for emotional support, which I needed to finish my final pint.  Mishap and Blacksmith provided other thru-hikers with trail magic the following day.  Garrett from California was nice enough to buy Sunshine and me some pizza.  I had a lovely encounter with Sweet Potato, Grouse (glad that I got your clothing bag back to you), Badger, and Round 2 all joined me for a lovely meal at Anile's Pizzeria in Boiling Springs, PA. 

The pizza kindness continued as Mountain Goat, Chopper, Bombadil, and Goldberry all gave me a slice or two at a shelter.  Then a trail angel named Estelle offered me a ride back to the trail when I was eating lonesomely at a Five Guys.  Most people didn't acknowledge my existence because I looked like bonafide hikertrash, but Estelle didn't mind!  We even hiked for 10 minutes together along the AT with her daughter Emily and grandchildren!  The kids had never been on the AT before, and their faces really lit up!  I'm told they haven't stopped talking about it since.  My "Future Dad" trail name was deemed appropriate as we inspected caterpillars on tree trunks and got jazzed up about the plain notion of being outside.  The trail did seem much more exciting after being grounded by that experience with youthful eyes.  

Pennsylvania's lack of wildness was best exemplified at Delaware Water Gap.  In what could be a pristine location, we now find the endless noise of Interstate 80, toll booths, and trains.  Roads, roads, and more roads from Boiling Spring to this spot was difficult to tolerate.  It's not the rocks that bothered me, it's the encroachment of civilization.  Mining scars, telephone poles, unnecessary access roads...  It all comes to an end in the most unlikely place imaginable: New Jersey. 

Raccoon Ridge in the Kittatinny Mountains of NJ

Yes, I am declaring that New Jersey's Appalachian Trail will rejuvenate your thru-hike.  It was in New Jersey that I finally had silence.  I noticed birds chirping again.  I could fully collect my thoughts and enjoy a sense of peacefulness.  Porcupines and woodpeckers were everywhere.  Deer!  Bears!  Sunfish pond in New Jersey is the first natural body of water encountered on the whole trail so far!  Wow.  New Jersey?!?  One of my best moments on trail was at New Jersey's Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge at night.  Fireflies flickered across the vast swamp like a scene out of some romantic love movie.  The nature goodness continues into New York and Connecticut as well.  Harriman State Park and your journey along the Housatonic River truly revitalize you.  I am so happy to be hiking the Appalachian Trail!

I also met a great group of hikers named Ginger Patch, Caboose, Sweeper, and Food Bag.  I like the cut of their collective jibs.  I keep bumping into these sneaky fast hikers, including most recently at a surprise trail magic spot in Connecticut!  I hope to see them and all the Pennsylvania hikers again. 

Trail magic with Food Bag and Caboose

We need moments like this.  Ginger Patch reclining. 

The many miles on trail may fade into obscurity someday.  As will the days of our lives if we let them.  But I'll never forget the big moments with friends.  Let's end this post by harkening back to the Four State Challenge.

18 hours and 52 minutes after leaving Virgina, Craig, Brain, Tyle, and I were primed to finish what we started.  Exhausted.  Aching.  Forcing smiles.  Standing at the Mason Dixon Line, we were still in Maryland when we collected ourselves and sung in unison:

"As flows the river's gathering force along her steadfast way, 
May we along life's devious course grow stronger day by day (Everybody!)
And may our hearts where er' we roam forever loyal be, 
To our beloved College home beside the Genesee!"

And at that very moment, we stepped into Pennsylvania.  Euphoria. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Project "Remote"

By Tyler Socash
IG: @tylerhikes

Sitting upright against the side of Doc's Knob Shelter, I felt thrashed by my 57.9-mile gauntlet.  It was 5:30am and I just walked 23.5 hours straight through the night.  The shelter was at full capacity.  No room at the inn.  Resigned to the fact that I could walk no further, I sat down against the back wall of the structure.  Sleep took me instantly as a soft pattering of rain began to soak my rigid limbs. 

24 hours earlier I awoke at the Chestnut Knob Shelter, a converted fire warden's cabin atop one of Virginia's southern balds.  The sunrise was at 6:00am, and I wanted to walk as far as possible that day.  Chasing Anish was becoming my obsession.  The only way to catch up to her 42-mile daily pace was to throw down unprecedented mileage.  This would be interesting. 
Sunrise from Chestnut Knob 
Sunrise from Chestnut Knob

Reaching Kimberling Creek at nightfall, I was still feeling great.  The undulating Appalachain Trail hadn't defeated me yet!  Dismal Falls soon roared through the forest.  Eating the last of my Uncle Ben's rice after midnight, I willed myself up to the Wilburn Valley view.  That's when the struggle began.  The final 7 miles took 3.5 hours.  Much like someone suffering from hypothermia, I began to lose my ability to reason.  Falling asleep on the cold, wet leaves seemed like a very good idea.  I had to promise myself that I would keep going.  Escaping the wind and the mist was what mattered.  Arriving at Doc's Knob I was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.  Shivering from the frigid morning rain, I wiggled my way into an uncomfortable spot beneath the overhanging roof.

It went unnoticed, so I simply muttered to myself, "I just walked 57.9 miles in one day."  Challenge complete.  I don't know if I'll ever hike that far in one day ever again. 

Is this a sustainable approach to breaking the Appalachian Trail self-supported speed record?

Pushing onward through Virginia, I walk by Dragon's Tooth and McAfee Knob in the same day.  The Priest Wilderness and Three Ridges Wilderness were quick to follow.  It was about this time when I calculated that I would need to average 50 miles a day to catch Anish.  Simply put, I did not feel capable of hiking that pace for 30 days.  While soaking up the sun rays on Spy Rock, I decided that I'd slow down.  The self-supported speed record would no longer be my objective. 

Credit has to go to Anish!  She was able to maintain an incredible pace over arduous terrain for 54 days.  What a testament to her fitness and discipline!  I am more impressed with her accomplishment now more than ever.  

Dragon's Tooth, a Virginia highlight

McAfee Knob, the AT's most iconic spot

On a journey that has primarily been a solo endeavor, two things happened on Spy Rock that I did not expect...

1) My high school friend Mike Downey and his wife Jess invited me to spend some time in Staunton, VA for a few days.

2) My friend Erin Crossett reminded me that I could still come to a combined bachelor/bachelorette bonanza weekend in the Poconos of Pennsylvania.  

With my self-supported speed record attempt ending on Spy Rock, I was now able to do a few things...

• Hitching / riding in vehicles would now be permitted
• I can finally indulge in trail magic

A local from Nelson County in Virginia named Russell North had a trail magic outpost between The Priest and Three Ridges.  Greedily guzzling Gatorade, I immediately felt like my decision to slow down was validated.  Although, I still fully intend to maintain my continuous purist footpath all the way to Katahdin.

White blazin' or bust!

My five day trail hiatus began at Ming's Garden in Waynesboro.  This legendary all-you-can-eat and not "eat-all-food" establishment is a must-do for thru-hikers.  As I waited for my friend Mike to arrive, I pulled the ultimate hikertrash move...  I showered in the decorative fountain outside of Ming's.  Even other thru-hikers seemed to be embarrassed for me as I washed the dirt from my legs.  I felt no shame, which signifies my official transition into accepting my new lifestyle.  

After a great meal, Mike took me to Staunton, VA.  What a gem!  There's a Shakespeare Theatre downtown, great restaurants, a public piano (my favorite thing to find), and wonderful views of the Appalachian Mountains.  Most importantly, Jess, Mike, and I played Sequence all night.  The first zero day along the AT was a resounding success. 

Good times kept rolling as my former Cross Country teammate Dan Lane picked me up for Craig Baumgartner and Courtney Legg's bash in the Pocono's.  The laughs almost never stopped as we picked up other University of Rochester graduates Tyle Stelzig and Matt Metz along the way.

I'm an avid gamer.  Board games, card games, sports... You name it!  This Memorial Day weekend was a college throw back.  Whether it was belly flops off the dock, canoeing, running, playing a ruthless game of Blank White Cards, croquet, billiards, Thirst Games III, Courtney and Craig Jeopardy, or harpooning a blow up whale in a rain storm, we kept having fun.  Returning to the trail was actually a bit hard to fathom after experiencing a weekend of debauchery.  All stories have to end to make room for more stories.  I received some solace when Craig, Jon, Brian, and Tyle all promised to meet up with me in a few days on the trail.  

Thru-hike vacation at the #CraigLegg Bonanza

Back on the trail, I felt rejuvenated.  The speed record put me into a hellbent grind.  Now I could take the opportunity to look around.  Next up was Shenandoah National Park.  My 20th National Park!

"These mountains are made for a road," President Hoover stated.  For better or for worse, the increased presence of automobiles in American society increased access to leisurely pleasures.  

In The Lorax, the Onceler prioritizes modernization over wildness in his world... "But... Business is business, and business must grow!"  He continues, "I biggered my factories, I biggered my roads, I biggered my wagons, I biggered the loads of the Thneeds I shipped out..."

Shenandoah National Park should feel majestic, because, well, it's labeled as a National Park.  My experience along the Appalachian Trail has felt anything but remote since then.  How does one measure a sense of "remoteness?"  Well, luckily one family is trying to do exactly that!

Check out "

This family is calculating the most remote spot in all 50 U.S. States!  Specifically, they are measuring the furthest distance from any road.  I've broken down the most remote spots along 13 of the 14 states that the AT travels in:

Georgia - Not surveyed yet. 
North Carolina - 5.5 miles
Tennessee - 4.0 miles
Virginia - 8.3 miles (on a barrier island)
West Virginia - 3.2 miles
Maryland - 7.6 miles (island in the Chesapeake Bay)
Pennsylvania - 2.7 miles
New Jersey - 3.3 miles
New York - 5.3 miles
Connecticut - 1.1 miles
Massachusetts - 8.2 miles (out in the Atlantic)
Vermont - 2.6 miles 
New Hampshire - 4.4 miles
Maine - 6.0 miles 

Average furthest distance from a road among the AT states...
62.2 / 13 = 4.78 miles

4.78 miles, on average the furthest away you can get from civilization on the East Coast.  A takeaway message is that America has fragmented its wilderness areas by building a hell of a lot of roads.

Shenandoah National Park is frustrating for an AT hiker.  We cross Skyline Drive dozens of times.  The trail parallels the road at all other times.  The constant noise of civilization hums in the distance.  Planes, trains, and automobiles, one can hear them all along Virginia's AT.  These noises seem to be inescapable.  

Excessive roads, but Shenandoah has the views!

Finally out of Shenandoah, the next challenge was on the horizon... The Four State Challenge.  It's a story so compelling that I'll have to tell it in my next post!...

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Pursuing the Fastest Known Time

By Tyler "Future Dad" Socash
IG: @tylerhikes

Using my trekking poles as makeshift crutches, I hobbled up the winding road towards Fontana Village.  Five days and 164 miles into the Appalachian Trail journey, I was already experiencing excruciating pain.  Three separate cars stopped to offer me a ride, but I had to refuse.  No hitches, no trail magic, no cutting corners, these are the main tenants of a self-supported thru-hike.  Finding that the General Store had closed only minutes before my arrival, I cursed the trail gods.  Moments later I collapsed into a hotel room bathtub.  Hot water pouring over me, I clutched my inflamed knees.  How did it come to this?  What am I doing here?  What's the meaning of life?...

* * *

If you are new to this Calendar Year blog, you'll find some of these answers in my first post.  It involves a tangerine Subaru CrossTrek, quitting a job that I loved, and attempting to complete three thru-hikes in one year.  The blog reads like an unfolding story.  It's a story about pursuing your authentic self.  I love three things: wilderness, wildlife, and wanderlust.  Turns out that hiking satiates all of them at once.  Hiking also happens to be the cheapest way to have a long holiday (which is important when you're unemployed).  I believe in unabashedly pursuing what you love.  What follows is all about actualizing a passion.

* * *

"Remote for detachment, narrow for chosen company, winding for leisure, lonely for contemplation, it beckons not merely north and south, but upward to the body, mind, and soul of man." - Harold Allen

The Appalachian Trail was conceived in 1921 by Benton MacKaye.  He envisioned a footpath along the crest of the Appalachian Mountains stretching from Georgia to Maine.  In 1937, this visionary had his dream fulfilled.  And what a beautiful dream it was!  When I set foot atop Springer Mountain in Georgia to begin the final thru-hike of my Calendar Year, a plaque read, "A Footpath for Those who seek Fellowship with the Wilderness." Perfect, this is exactly what I want.

Let's rewind for a second.  Flying back from my Te Araroa trip was very relaxing.  Cruising at high altitudes in a tube in the sky is in itself, an oddity.  During my San Francisco to JFK leg I had a window seat.  I could see the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge connecting to Oakland, I-80 stretching suburb to suburb to Sacramento.  I recalled in my post entitled The Two Towers that I could see this city light pollution from the Pacific Crest Trail.  Pretty soon I flew over the PCT and Lake Tahoe.  Face pressed against the window, I stared down at the snowy mountain ranges of Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming.  I could see the Wind River Range and the Great Basin, which is where the Continental Divide Trail traverses.  

At nightfall you begin to notice something disturbing with your 30,000ft perspective: urban sprawl.  The United States of America was nearly 100% wilderness 400 years ago.  Now we have roads everywhere.  Roads fragment ecosystems, as do dams, shopping malls, and suburbs.  We need some of these things in society, but perhaps we are a bit imbalanced with the natural world now.  Next time you fly at night, look at what has happened to America.  As I've said before, only 2.7% of the contiguous 48 States has wilderness classification.  More fracking, drilling, and development isn't making America great again.  It's actually destroying our natural world.  I try to picture myself as a red fox or a black bear when I look down at the impossible sea of lights from an airplane.  How would I get from one place to another safely?  Where would I find food in this cesspool of civilization?  Where is my place in this human-centric world?

On the Appalachian Trail, there is hope.  It traverses 14 states, 8 national forests, 2 National Parks, and 25 wilderness areas.  This trail is more than just a footpath to Maine — it's a wildlife refuge.  Before my plane landed, I wondered what the Appalachian Trail would look like on the ground.  From the air it looked like a bunch of lights.  Would I find fellowship with what's left of the East Coast's wild side?

The day before I started the Appalachian Trail I got to see the coast from above. Following a short intermission at home, my plane left Albany, New York (thanks for the ride to the airport, Nikki!) and flew down the Hudson River.  I could spot the 3,500-foot mountains of the Catskills, I flew over Harriman State Park and the Appalachian Trail, and then I saw the never ending metropolis sprawl.  Concrete, asphalt, suburbia.  No section of the Atlantic Coast, save the Outer Banks of North Carolina, appeared undeveloped from above.  Yikes.  Vote to protect our remaining wild spaces, everyone.  

Take action by signing a quick petition to save a newly-purchased piece of New York State as wilderness:

If you know of another petition to save a wild space, contact me and I'll feature it in my next blog post.

Landing in Atlanta, I was fortunate enough to get an Olympic relay-style ride to the Amicalola Falls trailhead.  Mackenzie Smith took me through the endless Atlanta rush hour traffic to Rome, GA.  Then my old colleague Adrienne Amador took me for a quick resupply run and drove through the night to get me to my destination.  Without their help, this story wouldn't have started so perfectly...

Fastest Known Time (FKT) - Heather "Anish" Anderson set the fastest self-supported thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail last year with a time of 54 days 7 hours and 48 minutes.  Anish also holds the Pacific Crest Trail self-supported record.  She is my idol.  For clarity, it is important to note that Scott Jurek holds the supported AT record (just over 46 days).

Thru-hike - Hiking from Point A to Point B with a continuous, unbroken footpath.

Self-Supported - A thru-hike completed without external assistance.  No hitch-hiking to town for resupplies, no help from a support team along the way, and you must carry all of the gear that you'll need.  I won't even touch Trail Magic left for hikers along the trail.

Purist thru-hike - Hiking a trail in a continuous manner along the entirety of the official route.

White Blazing - The Appalachian Trail is marked with white paint blazes along the 2,189-mile journey.

I am attempting to set a new self-supported FKT on the Appalachian Trail this year.  I will be a meticulous purist, connecting my footsteps along the entire AT demarcated by white blazes.  Whenever I deviate from the trail to retrieve water or provisions, I will ensure that I reconnect my continuous footpath on the actual Appalachian Trail.  

My slight OCD will prove to be quite an asset in this ambitious endeavor!  Below you will find journal entries with each day's highlights.  I have been "calendaring" daily for over 12.5 years, which is a testament to willpower.  I will channel that level of OCD into my purist, self-supported thru-hike.  Here we go...

(Note: to save time, the rest of this post may contain grammatical errors and incomplete sentences.  These entries are fragments of a much larger story, which will be told at a later date.  I hope you can appreciate the shorthand, raw recording aspect of this endeavor.

Furthermore, I can substantiate these distances traveled with a private GPS tracking device.  Other AT 2016 hikers that I meet along the way will be able to add anecdotal tales of this honest FKT attempt.)

4/28 - A Forest Ranger unlocked the Amicalola Falls Visitor Center for me so I could sign the hiker register that morning.  My pack weighed in at 31 pounds (eek!).  The ranger took my picture beneath the Springer Approach Trail arch, and I was off!

8.8 miles later, I stood atop Springer Mountain.  I signed the summit register, at started the Appalachian Trail at precisely 11:11am on April 28, 2016.

 Departing from the AT's southern terminus.

My friend Jer from Te Araroa said, "It would be awesome if you made it to Neel's Gap in one day."  So that's what I set as my goal.  I went over Blood Mountain in the dark and arrived at the iconic boot-filled tree of Neel's Gap after 11pm.  31.7 miles complete.  

4/29 - Hiked over the Raven Cliff and Tray Mountain Wilderness areas.  Spotted Brasstown Bald (Georgia's highpoint) through the trees.  Camped just after Addis Gap on the side of the trail.  64.3 miles complete.

Flora of the AT in the Raven Cliff Wilderness

4/30 - Made it to North Carolina border in 2 days 1 hour and 1 minute.  Walked over Standing Indian Mountain.  Met Graham from Virginia Beach and hiked over Mt. Albert in the thunderstorm.  Made it to awesome Long Branch shelter soaked at 9pm. 102.5 miles complete.


5/1 - 11 hours and 30 minutes of hiking to NOC at 3mph.  Heroic but stupid.  (Starting to feel sore.) At Winding Stair Gap I took a wrong turn and missed the AT.  I turned around to retrace my steps, and then I walked the actual AT to maintain my purist white blaze thru-hike.  Amy at NOC made sure my pizza and burger were waiting.  Met Gritz and Fabulous and Rudolph. Gritz offered me a beer, but I had to refuse.  When I said that I walked here in less than 3.5 days he spun around and shouted, "Whhhhhaaaaattttt?!?!?  I've been out here for 3 weeks!"  Slept near the NOC.  137.1 miles complete.


5/2 - Hiked to Fontana Dam.  Cobwebs and morning birdsong. Met Ot-man and Rook and Fun Size.  Rough road walk.  Knees exploding.  Turned down 3 hitches. Wrong Way and Monte Cristo totally saved me from insanity when I discovered that the General Store just closed.  They were so friendly!  We talked about why there's a racial disparity in who participates in long-distance hiking.  We went out to dinner (with Phillip and Rocket Rick and Masa) and had a wonderful night together.  Sat in the shower.  Depressing.  I'm done. 164 miles complete.

With Wrong Way and Monte Cristo

5/3 - rested.  Dinner with Snow White, Don Juan, Rudolph, Fun Size.  Walked the road and 1.1 to Fontana Hilton shelter.  Met Sway and Breezy.  Monte Cristo and Wrong Way and Rook and Ot-man were there.  Knees inflamed. 165.6 miles complete. 

5/4 - Hiked into my 19th National Park!  Great Smoky Mountains NP.  Hiked up to the TN/NC border.  Nice views through the trees.  Summited my 9th high point, Tennessee's Clingman's Dome.  Got there in the dark.  Started to snow.  Camped in Mount Collins Shelter. 202.6 miles complete.


5/5 - hiked in the snow all day past Newfound Gap and all the way down to Davenport Gap Shelter.  The shelter before that was jam packed with people. I was voted off the island and hiked through the night to Davenport. 237 miles complete.


5/6 - Met Wallet from Virginia and Blue Sky from South Carolina.  Hiked to Standing Bear hostel.  Quaint place with an epic Resupply shed.  Hiked 30 more miles over Max's Patch to just outside of Hot Springs, NC. 270.5 miles complete.

5/7 - Hiked into hot springs and ate with Little Griz from Southern Illinois.  Walked by a pink trail magic sign.  Could not tempt myself so I didn't even go over to the hikertrash enjoying the free beer and food.  Firescald Bald and Tennessee city lights.  I made sure to take the white blaze trail instead of the bad weather blue blaze alternate.  Other night hikers!  Climbed over Big Butt Mt. at night.  303.8 miles complete.


5/8 - 42.6 miles hiked. Met Sparkles and had a wonderful conversation.  CT girl hiking with bf.  I don't have many long conversations out here!  Uncle Johnnies Hostel for a few minutes. Up 4 more miles at night.  346.4 miles complete.

5/9 - Hiked over Beauty Spot and Unaka and up the last 6,000 ft. Peak til NH, Roan mountain in the dark.  Hiked to Stan Murray Shelter.  382 miles complete.

5/10 - hiked 11.4 miles from 4am to 8:10am to get to Mountain Harbour B&B for the best breakfast on trail.  Met Grandma from Nashville TN and Wind Walker from Fairbanks AK who taught me stretches for the IT band.  Met Cinderella too who has a great trail name story along with a lady named Prince Charming. Met Rush who is going fast as well.  Really nice group of guys and gals today. Met Goner and Wooby and Walkman and Beast as well today.  Moreland Gap shelter 411.5 miles complete.

Along the Houston Ridge after Hump Mountain

5/11- walked pond mt wilderness. Met Diatom who I instantly recognized from the PCT!!!  I couldn't believe it!  We had such a great conversation at the Big Lake Youth Camp in Oregon last summer!  Wow!  Such great vibes from this guy!  Good luck Diatom! Met Shutterbug who is completing his Triple Crown.  Saw so many deer that night.  446.5 miles complete. 

5/12  - Woke up in a thunderstorm.  Shouldn't have cowboy camped.... hiked into Damascus and passed the passed out riff raff party animals.  Met Angie from Vasque who invited me to hang out with Sam Mix and the Osprey Team: Chris, Jason, Jen, Rosie, Otis, Andrew, Mackey and Tony.  Angie's friend Julie was there too.  They were all so wonderful and encouraging.  I had a nice evening and enjoyed the very beginning of the Trail Days festivities.  Met great people in town who hiked the trail last year like Fuzz Ball and Brightside and their two friends. Such nice people out here!!! 468.8 miles complete. 

5/13 - Lost mountain shelter lunch break.  Met John and John from NYC. Young John goes to the U of Richmond, what a great conversation!  Nice to see families out on the trail.  Buzzard Rocks was awesome.  Mount Rogers and Grayson Highlands ponies!  Feral ponies!!! So cool.  My knee started to act up again.  I've had bad pain in my left knee since the NOC and Fontana Village section.  506 miles complete.  


5/14 -  messaged my family saying my speed record attempt is over.  I moved like a slug.  My knee hurts so much.  At the Trempi Shelter I made the decision to push through the pain and get to the Partnership Shelter.  This shelter is famous for pizza and Chinese food deliveries.  As a self-supported hiker, I cannot indulge.  (I have to hike into all towns on my own to get the food I need.)  I meet Norway and Jesse's Girl and another section hiker.  532 miles complete.  

Hello from The Barn Restaurant off of I-81 in Virginia!  It is 5/15, and I'm 544 miles into my thru-hike.  It took me just under 17 days to get here.  (11:11am is my reference point.)

Things looked dire yesterday, but today is a new day!  The 25% marker of the Appalachian Trail is just ahead.  Sometimes I feel like I'm in a game of Mario Kart, always chasing the Anish ghost.  I'm traveling exactly 32 miles a day, while the record holder traveled just over 42 miles a day...  She's currently way out in front, but I'm happy.  The people along the AT have been so kind!  All of the other hikers have been radiating positivity out here, and I try to radiate that energy back.  

I try to be an exceptional steward of the land while walking everyday.  I pick up micro-trash accidentally discarded along the trail, I help brush in the switchbacks that people cut, and I practice Leave No Trace principles while recreating.  

The Appalachian Trail is beautiful.  It's such a great way to see and experience America.  Almost like a time warp, you can envision yourself in colonial times as you navigate the wonderful wilderness areas and National Forests along the way.  

More trail updates to come!  I'm going to try to pick up the pace soon.  Hopefully my knee is on the mend...  No matter what life throws at you, remember to stay wild.  

Following the White Blazes to Katahdin!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The End of the World

By Tyler Socash
IG: @tylerhikes 


"You make your own luck, that's what I believe," our host Dene was steadfast with his delivery.  Decades of hard work at the bottom of New Zealand's South Island fortified his opinion that opportunities are well-earned.  A poster hanging on Dene's wall depicts a man on a fishing vessel hauling crayfish crates.  It reads: laboring in the Foveaux Straight takes all that you've got, and the men of the Southland have got all that it takes.

I met Dene on the Motatapu Track between Wanaka and Arrowtown.  An ardent outdoorsman, Dene completed Te Araroa a year before the pathway was officially opened.  As a cancer survivor, he simply stopped making excuses and made time for the things he loves.  He's even planning to thru-hike the trail again before he turns 70 next year.

 Dene - the man, the myth, the legend

Rain fell cold and hard when I met Dene at the Highland Creek Hut.  Following a conversation about efforts to protect native birds, bush, and rivers, Dene invited me to stay at his house in Riverton when I walked by.

"What if I have friends with me?" I asked.

"Bring them all, mate."

Everything in the wake of this encounter has seemed serendipitous.  Bekah and I were hiking by ourselves now.  We left Queenstown and began our latest deviation from the TA... Adding on the Routeburn Track Great Walk and the Greenstone Valley.  We hiked the Routeburn in a day, which happened to be one of our most beautiful and difficult days on trail.  The Conical Hill spur was a highlight, as was Routeburn Falls.  We even spotted an endangered kākā parrot in flight! 

Conical Hill view with Fiordland NP in the back

The majestic Routeburn Track

Great Walks are wonderful, yet overcrowded.  If visiting New Zealand, you are more likely to have a better wilderness experience far, far away from the nine Great Walks.  Great Walks are also a bit pricey.  Doing the Milford Track alone costs over 300 dollars.  We didn't do that one.  

At the end of the Greenstone Valley we connected with Te Araroa once again.  Bekah and I also got to meet two wonderful new characters... Paul and Kelli!  The timing seemed too good to be true, as Reyne and Brooke also arrived at this amazing hut before darkness settled.  It was great catching up with old and new friends!

We had seen Paul and Kelli before.  During our 100km bike day we rode past them as they were marching along.  It was exciting to officially meet our newest hiking partners.  Paul is a phenomenal story teller (remind me to retell his story about Barry the Brick in-person), and Kelli has gained the official title of "Chocolate Manager."  Paul would eat all of their treats if not for Kelli's diligence.  

Following the Movora Lakes Walkway, known for some Fangorn Forest filming scenes in The Lord of the Rings, Bekah and I headed into Te Anau to add on another bonus hike.  Six years ago my sister Nikki and I hiked half of the Kepler Track that wasn't covered in avalanche chutes.  Yet again I felt like this was a fortuitous opportunity to complete a trail that I never got to finish.  Bekah and I finished the 60km loop in a day and a half!  (Pretty impressive considering Bekah's sore foot.)  But maybe Dene is right?  Maybe we earned this opportunity by hiking hard and fast?  Maybe things happen for a reason because we make the things we love happen?  Here are some photographs...

 Kea along the Kepler Great Walk

Inside the Luxmore Cave

 Tākahe being feed by their protector
There's never enough time for me to talk about everything, but darn it I'll make time for the tākahe.  These flightless birds were once thought to be extinct. Then in 1948 a biologist explored a remote valley in Fiordland National Park and rediscovered a small population.  The Department of Conservation was thrilled and met the challenge of protecting these birds on the brink of extinction.  Trap lines were set to annihilate stoats, and the species has slowly made a precarious comeback in the delicate region.  Wouldn't you do the same if tigers, rhinos, or moose were going extinct?  Here's what's happening:

After the Kepler, Bekah and I rejoined with Paul and Kelli for the Takitimu Range.  It was here that we also had a teary-eyed goodbye with Reyne, thinking that we'd not see him again.  The Takitimu's are a hopelessly muddy place, but the silver lining is this strenuous ridgeline hike...  (Picture below)


Pretty soon we could see Bluff!  From the Twinlaw radio tower platform we could see what appeared to be an island jutting out into the Foveaux Straight.  It was our terminus!  It was the end.  Pangs of emotions begin to course through you.  Trying to live more in the moment, Bekah and I never really spoke about the end.  Actually seeing Bluff choked me up.  This wonderful woman who has been with me since Helena Bay was about to leave my side.  I shook off this vulnerable feeling and enjoyed the view.


Interestingly, Te Araroa's ending mirrors the beginning: beach walks, muddy bush tracks, farms, and roads.  We kept feeling like we were back at Cape Reinga!  While in the Longwood Forest, our final bush walk, we saw Bluff again.  Our boots filled with mud for the final time.  We slept in our last hut - Martin's Hut.  Paul and Kelli joined us.  What a rustic place!  We loved it!  It was nice to read all of the nostalgic and sentimental messages in the last hut book.  

Bekah, Paul, Kelli, and I strolled into Riverton to find Dene waiting for us outside of his house.  "I brought friends, Dene!" I shouted.  Dene and his wife Sally offered us beds and fed us for three straight days!  It was another unexpected act of kindness that has been pervasive throughout my time in New Zealand.  "It's just what you do, mate," Dene downplayed his generosity.  I am really going to have to pay this forward someday!

Dinner at Dene and Sally's

Oreti Beach, the final beach walk

As we walked towards Bluff, a crazy man on a bicycle rode by shouting, "Heading towards Bluff?"  Without waiting for a response he added, "THE END OF THE WORLD!" in a vigorous cackle.


It ends in a flurry.  You travel 3,000+ kilometers along a long-distance trail, touch a sign post, and then you have to go home.

April 19th at the finish line 

Dene brought us wine and awards!

And just when timing couldn't be any better...

...You get to be there with all of your friends!  Couples Retreat caught up, and so did Reyne and Brooke!


I don't think I got here by chance.  Every vacation I've ever made for myself has involved hiking.  That's 10 years of hiking!  It may sound obsessive, but I'm doing what I love.  I made the jump.  I saved money for six years!  I lived in squalor with five other amazing dudes back in Rochester.  I never bought that tangerine Subaru CrossTrek.  Thank goodness thru-hiking happens to be a relatively inexpensive way to have a long holiday! 

Thank you all for your support.  It can get a bit lonely being so far from home.  Your messages and well-wishes really matter.  Sharing my appreciation for the natural world with you... I hope that matters.  Not everyone can just walk away from life's responsibilities right now, but if these posts do anything at all, I hope they inspire readers at work/home to value nature.  Not as something to exploit, but rather to cherish...

If you want to protect a wilderness area, fill this out (takes 1 minute, I just did it).  This is a very easy way to make a huge difference.

We live in a finite space.  We need to vote to protect what unspoiled lands we have left.  Please vote to support wilderness preservation whenever possible.  We need to speak for the trees.  We are all a part of the same world, and it's the only one we've got.

Bekah and I flew back to Christchurch together.  Tempering my emotions, I pressed my face against the window.  Our long pathway unfolded beneath us!  I urged Bekah to look.  We could see Wanaka, Hawea, Ahiriri River, Mount Cook, Pukaki, Tekapo, the Rangitata River...  With tears in our eyes, we said goodbye.

One chapter ends so that another may begin.  I'm already 5 days into my third thru-hike: the Appalachian Trail.  With only two months to spare in this "Calendar Year," I hope you'll join me as I try for something remarkable...

The self-supported fastest known time!