Struggles are worth hiking for

"Even on our last breath of sanity, we must not give up. For the summit of life holds everything worth living & dying for." That's typically the way I think, I remember writing this quote in a journal a year ago. I was taken back to these words while solo back packing my trek through the burning hot forest that was devastated & consumed by fallen trees far & wide from the storms that mother nature unleashed just days before my arrival to the remote backcountry.

It was pushing 96 degrees in the sun, humidity was at it's usual summer Kentucky high (80-90%) & I was dead set on spending the weekend backpacking alone to Cloud Splitter in the Daniel Boone National Forest. I got to the trailhead around 2:00pm, slipped my Danner's on & adjusted my pack before heading into the beautiful Kentucky wilderness. I decided to intentionally hike the longer trail route to Cloud Splitter, to spend the majority of my daylight hiking & scouting for photo ops. After reaching my third mile, I set my steel frame down against a sandstone wall & snacked on a Justin's peanut butter packet & indulged in several deep drinks from my water bottle. The break was short, but entirely necessary. Once I started to hike further into the remote wilderness, my entire outfit was soaked wet with sweat...everything from my socks to my Patagonia cap. My peaceful & self empowering hike quickly turned into an all out ambush of sweat bee's & mosquitoes swarming my every move & swat. Although your "not supposed" to swat at the sweat bee's, you can't seem to help yourself when they fly into your ears, nostrils, shorts & all over your glazed arms. While I was growing to deal with this very intense amount of buzzing in & around my head, being stung by most of them that landed on me knowing they weren't going away anytime soon since I was covered in sweat & had many hours of hot weather ahead of me. I pressed onward anyways, with the thoughts of a late night fire on top of Cloud Splitter's ridges, the morning views, the sense of accomplishment & overcoming. I'm too weak to turn around & not finish what I've started at times.

Making the decision of pressing onward was a quick thought without much pause, my goal was to get onto Cloud Splitter as quickly as possible. I picked up my pace to a power-walk & was motivated to get to the beautiful high sandstone ridges to cool off under the many pine tree's atop the ridge & to rehydrate. I needed to dry out so these bee's would literally stop eating me alive (yes, it was as bad as it sounded). The last two miles were the toughest, the trail basically had become completely absent due to the many wind/thunderstorms from earlier in the week. I had to hike around, climb, & cut my way out of the mess of 100-200 dead fallen tree's until I reached the base of the ridgeline. When I reached the base, I was so ready to get there my brain basically went on auto-pilot & I just magically floored it up the side of the sandstone & made it to the top at my new record speed. I was there, finally at camp for the night. I stripped down & immediately laid on my Z-Lite pad towards the open face of Cloud Splitter facing out to the western valley of DBNF. I munched on an apple & in attempts to drying off (to keep the sweat bee's away), kept still as I could & didn't try moving around too much because the sun was still pounding down & there was roughly two hours of sunlight left that day. I watched the sunset while collecting fire wood for the night's campfire, the vibes we're getting better & within an hour I made six & a half (three couples & a dog) new friends that had also backpacked up to Cloud Splitter that day. Once I had our fire going, the whole group of us enjoyed the infinite ceiling of stars & galaxies over head, talked about our favorite movies, hikes, foods & experiences all while one of the guy's (didn't get his name) was playing Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush" album on his little pocket speaker radio. Around 12:45, the fire was retiring & we all returned to our tents/hammocks for the night. I crawled into my tent, took my headlamp off & watched the moon with all it's orange-glowing glory that night & thanked the Lord I made it there that day, that I didn't turn around.

5:00am the next morning, I awoke to my watch alarm beeping in my backpack. I sat up to turn it off & to get my morning cup of coffee ready... but was distracted by the beauty that was held before me around my tent & the ridges of Cloud Splitter. Purely hypnotized & smitten by the thick fog that bled into the ethos of the sun's arriving for the new day. I hopped out of the tent to get a better look, every bird was awake & working overtime that morning. This memory was one I will not soon forget, or ever for that matter. Witnessing the birth of a new day is something to not be taken for granted of. Hard work in the tree line will always pay off in the end, this adventure continues to prove such a thing. No matter the journey or the doubt of destination's arrival, we must try & proceed onwards, only onward. We are rewarded when we find the light worth searching for in the dark.

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All images shot with Kodak Portra 160 film.

Raising your kids on the trail

A child will learn far quicker with the use of his/her own hands & mind. Our animal instincts prove outward & intuition takes over them, they will learn independence, sufficiency & patience. This entry touches on some helpful tips & things to consider while taking your kids hiking or backpacking in the wilderness.

Snacks & plenty of water, rewards are always nice to receive once a certain accomplishment has been fulfilled. I always make sure to pack a snack for every mile we are planning to hike (1 mile = 1 snack, 4 miles = 4 snacks...you get it). This will keep them motivated & excited on the trail & will make the complaints either to a minimum or discontinued altogether. Snacks should probably have minimal waste (always throw trash in nearby bins or keep in pack until you return to the trailhead to discard) & ideally on the healthy side to keep up energy & moral. The night before the hike, you can make bags of assorted snacks to make into a trailmix of their choice. That way they will feel a contribution was made on their part for the food they eat. Water, well is essential to any physical activity, proper hydration is especially important in the wilderness hiking.

If the trail isn't one to take much caution to, allow them to lead the pack. It basically serves as the line leader method they get at school, it can increase their involvement & excitement within the hike. When you let them "take the wheel" of the direction the hike is going, they will remember that moment with pride (This doesn't apply to all hikes/trails).

Allow them to contribute, whether that be the fire wood kindling they gather around camp, setting up the tent or the way their rucksack is packed the night before at home. The more input & thought they give & absorb will reflect the memories on the mountains & trails. If you show them the ways of mother nature & how it all works (ecosystems & plant life), the memories will be forever solidified into their young growing souls & can carve them into better appreciative younglings. It's an honorable obligation to teach our kids the importance of wilderness & ways to preserve it, for the next generations to come.

All images shot with Kodak Portra 160 film

Backpacking Easter weekend at DBNF

"Waking up in the eastern Kentucky mountains, to the sounds of song birds & a short distance waterfall. What a day to be alive, on Easter Sunday no less. Bless the Lord for this treasure he has stumbled upon."

I had planned an overnight backpacking mission late February, it gratefully landed on Easter weekend in March. Once I clocked out Saturday morning, me & Geraldine headed down into Daniel Boone National Forest in my trusty old white Jeep (Hank the Jeep), after eating sandwiches at her house & picking up some gas station snacks.

After quickly getting up the face of Indian Staircase, we hiked a little further west on the upper ridge to find a place to call home for the night. We hiked through a thin trail of unforgiving thorns & old wet wood chips up into a flat open patch of dirt & sand, including a make shift fire pit with plenty of wood surrounding it & a great view looking over the other valley. So we felt it was meant to be & quickly threw up my tent to claim the spot. After our home was made & we stowed our packs away, we decided to roam around on the ridge & embrace the remainder of that beautiful Saturday's sunshine.

After hours of gazing into the countless array of spruce & pine trees, we decided to head towards the nearby waterfall to fill up my water purifier & to cool off from the golden hours warmth. The sun was leaving for the day & our stomachs we're ready to be fueled up. We spent the night star gazing, stoking our beautiful fire & preparing our dinner, while Ben Howard's music was quietly playing on our phone radio. Geraldine had a Mountain House macaroni & cheese & I boiled rice & tiny red potatoes. Soon after our spoons we're scrapping our bowl bottoms, we headed off into a peaceful sleep in the tent with a ceiling of tall tree silhouettes & hundreds of stars above. Early the next morning, I awoke to a beautiful wilderness & remembered the presence of Easter immediately. I slipped my boots on & spent the morning writing & getting water from the same nearby sandstone waterfall, to boil for my morning cup of coffee. There is no better place to celebrate the Lord, than in the wilderness.

All images shot with Kodak Portra 160 film.

Rebirthed in Spring

The seasonal changes allow time for recognizing & differing prior ways, but none more than spring. The wilderness is reborn with new delicate plant life, trees regain their proud coats of needles & leaves & the rivers are baptized back to flowing bodies, from the consistent rain showers. One constant to keep in mind at all times, is that change is always occurring. Whether it's happening before your eyes, or in some far distant lands. Change is life's only unfounded but unbroken promise. It's entirely special when a particular change is for the better, but unfortunately not so common. I find that relics & signs of the spring season lay in the basket of winter's end. From a most recent camping experience with good friends, I documented some of those notes & reminders of Spring's short arrival.

All images shot with Kodak Portra 160 film.

Help protect the National Wildlife Arctic Refuge

Is it proper that wilderness & it’s creatures should suffer because we came?
— Richard Proenneke
Photo by Lincoln Else

Photo by Lincoln Else

The Wilderness Society have created a letter to sign & submit to congress, in hopes to get congress to support & pass the Arctic wilderness bills this year. It's our job as humans & citizens of this beautiful untouched wilderness, to keep it's land & it's inhabitants safe & unsoiled.

A place so unharmed by man & so wild, it begs the question of how man ever made a positive impact on this land. This possibility of drilling for oil resources on this virgin land sickens me to a depth I didn't know possible. I am doing everything in my power to get the word out on keeping this land protected & ask you all the same. Without wilderness, we are nothing.

Photo by Jacob W. Frank (NPS)

Photo by Jacob W. Frank (NPS)

The oil & gas industry and its allies are lobbying to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. If this happens, America's last great wild frontier would be forever changed. Together we can save the Arctic Refuge for future generations. Please sign the letter & submit to congress in the link below.

 

https://secure.wilderness.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=2947

The Son of the Wolf

The strength of man’s son, provides beautiful assurance for his well being & a streaming opportunity for man to alter his imperfections.
— George Barnett

As fatherhood for me reaches it's fifth year, I'm able to reflect on the many grueling challenges & hardships it's provided. More so, I'm granted with gasconade privilege with the position I have been given as being Levi's father. Everyday there is something new to love & learn about this young man I have brought into this world. After several miles together on the trails, I've decided to share some light on what we've experienced through each others perspectives in personal journal entries.

Listening, learning & sensing the stillness of the snow covered forests. Making sense of the white matter slowly drifting into his perspective & the ambiguous yet satisfying taste it leaves on his red warm tongue.

Father has a walking stick found from a near by spruce pile, this one should do just fine for me while I lead him through the bare meadows to hopefully find some fossils. If we are found lucky, I do hope we are able to take some home for my collection of gathered nature findings kept in an old Ball jar on Dad's desk.

When hiking on the trails, my father often compares us to the trees. Especially me, he even named a baby pine "Levi" & always makes sure to visit it & protect it's growth with every chance he can. When I do grow into a man, I do wish to climb beside my father wherever he may be. I've always had issues leaving his side anyway, I doubt that will ever change.

Most days spent together, we are rarely indoors. I hope he appreciates this lifestyle of being aware of a simple existence & having a loving connection to the beautiful wilderness that we can all preserve & enjoy.

All images shot with Kodak Portra 160 film.