An outlet for the feet that wander

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The Maine Woods

Summary of recent Events:

  • Successful move to Garland, ME. I live with my brother, his wife, and their three children.
  • Enrolled in Unity College’s Adventure Education Leadership program.
  • Lost friends back home due to strenuous circumstances – new friends made in Unity.

The Maine woods

My socks were damp as they were jossled around on the skin of my shins.  Some odd ounces of powder had found their way into the tongues of the somewhat new winter boots, bypassing the double-layered snow pants I wore. I was moving into the layered woods and the snow was deep. From what I could measure, the recent snow storm poured on an extra five inches above the now second, lightly iced over layer of snow which extended at least another ten inches below that – likely twelve or thirteen. I went to a private christian elementary school so you can’t trust my math, but I believe that’s over a foot – actually, it’s approximately a knee. I stood for a moment, listening and glancing back at the treeline of the yard. I was waiting for the kids to follow me.

The snow displayed pockets and depressions only a centimeter or two deep, and ranging from 1×1 to 3×3 inches. I do not know what causes them – it seems unlikely to be vegetation, wildlife, or even atmospheric conditions (Out of those, however, weather seems the most likely). I will continue to check on them.

Up ahead there appeared a clearing I could make out from inbetween the branches and trunks. The snow pack tapered off ahead towards the clearing – strange. My boots caught on fallen limbs trapped beneath the pack, sometimes breaking through unexpectedly and jolting me forward while other times propping me up into a snowy pine bough, which reacted to my disturbance by piling its snow down my collar. My boots began to find less and less snow beneath them as I approached the edge of the treeline ahead of me. The final boughs bent back to show me a great plain, reaching farther than I could make out with the sun reflecting off miles of light snow. White capped peaks sitting on monoliths reaching out to me from across the void of white and I recognized them as the Rockies. Behind me, so close, remained the Maine forest. Penobscot hunters tread lightly above the snow pack which I had stumbled through as if a bumbling beast.

My time and place is upset. I did not return through my foot trail. My weight shifted back and forth as I waited for the children to come out and follow me. I thought I could see them, hear them from back in the forest, struggling to wade through the layers of snow. They did not show immediately, and I began to doubt. I began to think it may have been the hunters, looking through the tiny spaces at me – the bumbling beast. There was much to see and I was eager, but I sat to wait for the little ones. I hope to see them soon, following in my tracks if they must, or pushing through the difficult snow – as long as they get here, for there is all the world ahead.

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WUMP, Day 1

June 14th, first day of Wilderness Upgrade for Medical Professionals (WUMP).

Let me start off with giving an overview of some of the fellow students I’ve been working with. I’ve been on teams with guys like Chris, or Jack who just took their EMT-B class. Then, others, like Jerry or Mark who are both physicians. We’ve got Paramedics, peace corps. Volunteers from out of the country, and one particularly awesome guy named Rusty who works on Santa Fe, NM Mountain Rescue and on their Life Flight. We’ve got Tennessee Swift Water Rescue and a Fire Investigator, along with a NOLS-inspired father and son, the father being a clinical psychiatrist. So, quite a diverse group. Then there is me, a newbie SAR guy and EMT who is stuck in the classroom shell dying to get out.

Now, about the course. All day long I’ve been involved in the most intensive EMT practical sessions of my life. From 8-5:30 we were involved in heavy wilderness trauma assessments, of which were much more comprehensive and responsibility-focused than urban EMS. For examples, I c-spined with a jacket and BEAM carried a man down a small mountain. Tomorrow, or Tuesday the 15th, I will be out until 9pm learning new splinting methods. Thursday I will be out until 12 or 1am working on a mass casualty scene in the wilderness of the local state park.

I have nothing else to report right now, I am too tired. Hopefully I will post again on Wednesday, the 16th. We’ll see.

Failure

When I exited the hotel in Asheville Sunday morning at 6am the city was silent. Nothing moved until I was making a 22-point turn in the Aveo to get out of the cramped parking. The steep exiting slope onto the main street rocked he car up and down as I drove over and slid alone through the downtown streets. The GPS lead me through a desolate section, devoid of many buildings, and up a steep incline. I had punched in a route to Mt. Mitchell State Park, but I figured I had already passed it on the highway previously and now wasn’t so sure what the GPS had in mind. Anyways, I continued through a now winding, steep, and narrow road along the mountains. Halfway through Town Mountain Rd the GPS dropped dead, and while I probably should have turned around, there was no room or driveways. To my left was a rock face, and to the right was a drop-off, with no straight-aways. So, I found my only option at the end of that road was to sneak onto the “Blue Ridge Parkway”, a scenic road route through the side of the mountains. I remembered the GPS had wanted me to turn right, so I did. Yet, this scenic ridge lead only to the top of a mountain – covered with fog – and with no way down to a road leading to my destination. I climbed and climbed, with the deep blue of the Smokies rising into the endless fog until I found a side route to a small town named Weaverville. I took this turn, desperate now for gas, thinking I’d have been stuck on the parkway if I had to drive any further. Luckily, about 8 minutes into town I found a small gas station and filled up. At this point, with the GPS failing in the mountains and no way to obtain a written set of directions to the state park, I decided it best to find LML (Landmark Learning, the school which hosts the W-EMT class). Mt. Mitchell was never ascended, and time does not allow me to make another go at it. Mountains have a reputation for bad luck – but the original North Eastern plan is still on. I’ll just have to come back here someday.

Now, I’ll just have to see what happens next. I’m typing this in the LML parking area – you’ll read everything I have in succession when it is posted, but I don’t know when I’ll have another chance to write

Falling Into Place

As announced previously, the symbolic start of my north eastern mountain expedition will commence on Sunday, when I begin Mt. Mitchell. At the same time preparations can be justified for documentation, equipment, partners, and reviews of the north eastern heights, more beats on my stomach like a drum inside.

I am afraid to ascend, but terrified to stay put. As is frequently heard, death is welcome when one never lives. Climbing has since its first claim on my spirit overcome every bodily need, every social function, and has threatened to tear me away from all my professional engagements (I’m only kept to them as I hope they will allow my more money to buy more gear, and leave sooner). I have never felt the excitement as I do now when faced with such freightening weakness in the face of pure, primoridal existence. Even now, as I have sat in my Maryland hotel with the TV losing its battle to call me back to society, I run through my movements, my inspections, my new life. Sustenance is childish when confronted with the ascetic integrity and progressive necessity of breathing raspy, short and rebellious gasps of thin air. Sex is petty once the bleeding, chalked and ruined fingers of revolutionary vitality appear as gospel in front of one’s eyes.  Every concern I’ve carried, every undertaking in my life is petty in comparison to the only actions that can change man – Ascent and Exploration. This is what overcomes me, this is how I live forever more and it has become my only necessary focus.

The clock nears 12am. This Mason-Dixon sky fades to black. I am in the shadow of a giant, and all but my spirit is crushed – it is the only way to exist. If it is ever said that the road or the cliff takes me away, tell them I’ve been headed there for a long time. I hope this sheds weight on the cup I have taken up, I hope you all continue to read and believe in me. It is far too easy to dismiss what you don’t understand, just give me a little more time.

Destination: Maryland

June 11th, I woke at 3:07am to my alarm. My things were packed, so I showered and bid goodbye to my mother and father. I hit the road at 3:45, to Hagerstown, MD. For the first few hours the drive was uneventful, CT is boring and I consider it just a stuck up colony of NY city. However, I was able to hit NY city and the George Washington Bridge just in time for 6 o’clock rush hour. The GPS fumbled, and I took a wrong turn into some slightly suburban NJ area. I got back on track though, and rolled into New Haven.  Needless to say, coming from some back water MA hole, the size and scope of this place kept my eyes from sticking to the road. New Jersey ended shortly after, and I was left daring my way into Pennsylvania.

I warmed up to this place in an instant, the shallow, expansive hills of farmland kept my hand out the window, swooping and diving in the air to mimic their fluidity. Farmland covered the majority of what I met there and the few communities had giant spaces between yards (I’d like to see more of that). After a bit more of driving, I got to the Hershey factory exit and stopped for gas. I bought an iced tea and some Clif bars, the last of which I just ate.

When I finally entered MD, Hagerstown was 10 minutes past the state line. The Hagerstown downtown area seems like a fantastic place, and I hope to go there for dinner tonight at some restaurant. The Days Inn greeted me a few miles down the path. I pulled in early at around 10:30am, rolled down my window fully, stuck my legs out, and fell asleep across the driver and passenger seat. I slept in a cramped, sweaty ordeal for about an hour and then decided to go inside to see if a room was ready despite me being early. The desk manager was named Bev, an older southern woman who warmed up to me after I shower her my military ID for a discount. Strange how that goes. She looked up my name and saw that my internet reservation hadn’t gone through, which bummed me out. I was able to get another though without much hassle, and she pointed me in the right direction. As soon as I got in my room I fell asleep again.

Then, around 3:30 I woke to take a shower. After having Christel help me with my new camera, I ventured outside to take a few shots with it and experiment. Here’s the link to the photos taken so far:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/51031773@N06/

Soon, after I’ve written this, I’m going to go find a steak. Take care, all.

On Driving

At eighty-five miles an hour, around two or three in the morning, alone on a tattered Maine highway heading North, the human spirit is at one of its highest points. I dare to suggest that the only higher virtues of mankind are to take up an ascent, and to wander alone through the pavement and dirt. I hope to pass on early (or rather, just on time), and to do so very much above sea level and just below the heavens. Those northern passages scrawl along the green and tan of the northeastern map I carry in my back jean pocket, baring the free and the unbridled as art. They lead outward, and inward – away from Massachusetts and towards my bare hands and soul. That is where hope lies for each individual, the worn and beat red palm only fit to grip the strap of a pack, the direction of a steering wheel, or the jug of a cliff face.

Tires or shoes, may either be the vessel in which you reign as Nemo across the trails that mountains grace.

Money and Mileage

I figured I’d post a bit of information for anyone who is thinking of making a trip of their own. So far, I’ve gotten a handle on fuel, mileage, and I’ve booked the proper hotels. For the final count, I’ll be staying in Hagerstown, MD., Asheville, NC., Marion, VA., and Harrisburg, PA (The main camp and class area will be in Cullowhee, NC). The total hotel cost is $256.71, two of the 4 hotels were booked with Travelocity’s top secret hotel deals. I hadn’t figured out to use that system until I had already booked the first two, but they weren’t too bad in the first place and I decided not to change the reservations(I highly recommend using the top secret hotel system for any of you hopefuls). Easily the trashiest hotel is in Marion, VA. I’m excited for this, as maybe I can hide a briefcase of money in the vent shaft ala Llewlyn. The total mileage will be 1,843 miles, and the approximate total gas expenditure will be $126.34.

For those who don’t know already, the total cost of the W-EMT class is $660, for both tuition and camping reservations (just $60 for the camp site for 6 days). That makes the total cost of the trip so far $1,043.05. Then, adding in the recent bivy sack, camping stove, fuel, ground mat, grime soap, camping shower, microfiber towel, and gaiters, this easily rockets to over another 150 or so dollars. Note, however, that I’ve been saving for this for over a year and a good amount of money was freed from savings that I had collected hoping to get an apartment with an ex – suddenly, funds were abundant (well, not really, but there was a bit more). I also have relatively low liabilities and outgoing sources. I mainly pay for gas, equipment for jobs, and some utilities here at my place. This isn’t a portrayal of how rich I am – I actually have been more liberal with tossing money into this than I should be, in case some of you can’t tell, I’m (and this is detrimental in a social sense) fairly non-materialistic, and favor the skills and experiences gained over the amount of money I should be conserving in order to build a materialistic paradise.

I’ll have a full schedule out soon, but until then since I’m new to this, tell me – what kind of questions do you have about my travels, either to NC or elsewhere?