Maryland / Pennsylvania

The final days of my trip began with a ride through Western PA to Deep Creek Lake in Maryland for family vacation.  When I left Seattle I had planned on getting somewhere in the Midwest and then flying home for family vacation, I ended up riding my bike there (and getting there a few hours early before everyone else). The ride from Pittsburgh to Maryland was along the Greater Allegheny Passage rail trail, one of my favorite sections of the whole trip.  I had been to the Ohiopyle region growing up once, but being back after many years I was ecstatic to find solitude and remoteness in the deep woods on a rail trail.

 

The last two days, were filled with excitement and nervousness. I was about to finish a coast to coast ride.  The Appalachian mountains were no match for my 3000 miles of training. Doing 4k feet of climbing before lunch sure was fun.   The feeling of looking at any hill and knowing I could go over it was an incredible rush.  I met in the Harbor with a close friend and celebrated my cross country ride with my favorite slice of pizza in Baltimore.  I’m not sure what I expected to feel or see when I finished. There is nothing about Inner Harbor I find that exciting or interesting. I think it just felt good to be somewhere familiar for the first time in 8 months.

Cool stats from the trip:

  • Total Mileage – 3394
  • Total days – 51
  • Rest days – 9 (including 5 days for vacation)
  • Days in the saddle – 42
  • Averags – 80.8 mpd / 66.5 mpd including rest day
  • Days it rained – 4
  • Flat tires – 1
  • Hotels / motels stayed in – 0
  • 100+ mile days – 13
  • Longest day – 130 miles
  • Average spent – $19.83 per day  ( 99% of that was on food….I really like hummus)
  • Most played music – Charlie Parr (I discovered him on a rest day in Idaho at the library. It seemed to fit most of the places I was riding through, some proper American summer music)
  • Favorite sections – Western Montana, Washington, North Dakota (Surprisingly)
  • Least favorite sections – Ohio

I wish I had more to say from the last few days of the ride. But I finished two weeks ago, and the glow & excitement of a cross country ride has already faded.  A stark reminder that these highs fade. Do you know what it feels like to be 26 and move back into your parents house? I do. I am literally the guy you read about in the latest headline – “Millennials Aren’t Leaving Home and Buying Houses” .  It does feel good to be home helping my family around the farm and house, as well as having a place to cook food (I’ve missed this so much).  It’s incredibly comforting to have time\space to just relax and to work on some projects, fermenting kombucha and planting way too many spinach plants are my current ones. I am starting to get restless however, I miss having a goal every day.  Something to work towards.  Perhaps growing the most beautiful leaf of spinach is enough to be my current life goal.

 

IMG_20170811_194705_064[1]
Pittsburgh
IMG_20170819_203338_949[1]
Western Maryland
IMG_20170813_110656_862[1]
Ohiopyle
IMG_20170812_155240_052[1]
Ohiopyle
download_20170821_070520[1]
Ran into to my cousins on my last day
IMG_20170820_232029_492[1]
The end
IMG_20170902_083523_008[1]
Sunrise on the farm
IMG_20170826_161458_711[1]
Molly!

Wisconsin / Michigan / Ohio

Again, the past week has been a blur. I find myself sleeping beside an old Lutheran Church just across the Ohio/Pennsylvania border. It’s almost 11pm. I almost fell asleep today riding, why can’t that happen now?

Wisconsin was a pretty fun ride once I accepted that I was on a rail trail for over 100 miles. I stayed with a lovely family in Madison. Going off the Northern Tier was a great idea thru here. I’m glad I saw Wisconsin. The state is littered with “small” farms. One every 3-5 minutes if you’re on a bike.

The famous farmers market was a bit of a let down, mostly because I happened to be there the same weekend as the CrossFit games. With the market littered with a bunch of roided up bros, I tried some cheese and rode to Milwaukee.

Milwaukee was my favorite city of the trip, entirely because of the people I met. I stayed with another warmshowers host, Sarah, which upon arrival I find she just finished her bar exam, her parents were in town vacationing, her bf was building a water slide in the backyard for later in the evening, and free cyclest pancake breakfast at 8am. The parents super generously had me out for Thai food, which I stuffed every inch of my insides with. I take the later ferry as I was not about to miss pancakes. We ride to a bike trail in the morning. Where do all these cool people come from? Just show up beside a bike trail and make pancakes for people riding there bikes on the trail? I meet guy on a very similar journey as me, he was just riding by last weekend and happened upon this pancake feast. He ended up in Milwaukee for a week. I can’t take a week. I got miles to do, for some reason.

I “cheated” and took the boat across Lake Michigan. Everyone I asked said it’s worth skipping Chicago, but I mostly just wanted to avoid the inevitable urban sprawl. The miles of concrete that I’ve passed so many times. It looks all the same. Great Clips, Sprint, Little Cesar’s. The trifecta. Copy and pasted for miles. No bike lane or even signs on these roads. Everyone stays in their little box. Nice and safe.

Michigan was hard, mentally. It just was not exciting. Where are the mountains? The views? The plains? I keep my head down, pedaling hard. My bottom bracket is starting to make noise. “Not now” I think. I don’t want to stop. “Just keep going. We’ll get out of this bumpy, country backroad hell soon” . The people in central Michigan have never seen a bike before, based off the odd looks I kept getting. The road surface was the worst of the trip, clumps of patched pot holes for hundreds of feet, for an entire day.

I enter Ohio, and stay with an eccentric man who has a bit too much energy for me, but I open up and let it happen. His original Sears home is quite interesting. I meet so many of the locals in the small town I forget the name of.

The next day was my least favorite day of the trip. The closest I’ve come to dying on this ride. It brought back the horrors of my time riding in Baltimore County. I hit the suburbs of Akron JUST in time for the premier rush hour to commence. I can feel it. The energy is high. People are a little faster. They spend .5 seconds less at a stop sign. The passing of me goes from 3 feet to 3 inches. These hilly backroads start to fill up because the interstate is in a grid lock. I shouldn’t be here. These people don’t care if I live or die, they care that they only have 4.5 hours of their day left and I just cut it to 4.49 because I slowed them down.

103 miles into my 105 mile ride I hit a 14% uphill. How is that even allowed. I curse Google maps bicycle directions. I make it to my host, just in time for their weekly friends potluck. I offer my ramen jokingly and they feed me so much food. The kindness of people to totally strangers on bikes is odd. I hope to do my share one-day.

I have four days left. 4 days left to find all the answers! I won’t go into detail but I’m taking a week off come Saturday for family vacation and then I’ll finish my last two days to the harbor. I’ve reached a point where even 100 mile days are coming eazy. I think I’ve done 10 so far. I just did 3 in a row. Sitting in the saddle all day, I sometimes wonder if I wore the spandex, clipped in, how much faster and further I could go. My iconic red flannel I got for Christmas and sandles, I could never give them up. I feel at home in them. The moment I clip in or wear some flashy kit covered in logos, the soul is gone.

I’ll keep searching for the answers. I know they aren’t going to be there at the end of this ride, only a fool would think that. I’ve found many on this trip, and with 4 days in the saddle left, I know this is just another chapter. I just wish I knew what the next chapter was titled.

(I’ll post the photos from this section in a few days when I have wifi, because this app just doesn’t like to upload photos any other way and it’s super frustrating. But don’t hold out, I literally took like 4 photos. )

Minnesota

My intentions of doing a post per state are going to be a challenge as I am going faster and the states are getting smaller it seems.  However, I found myself taking an unplanned rest day in the small town of Wonewoc, Wisconsin.  They have an amazing library in town, one of the best so far this trip, so I am satisfied.

 

The fog from this morning’s breakfast at Bernies Wagon Wheel II is finally clearing.  I usually don’t buy food from restaurants, but I figured I’d support the local wagon wheel. I got a 3 egg omelette with hash browns, toast, and 2 pancakes the size of Frisbee disks, and good eavesdrop from the locals.  According to them, the liberals hate the new Foxconn plant because we care about the environment and hate jobs. I sat silently and listened.  I also learned way too much about different types bullet casings the one man is experimenting with.

 

My last rest day was just a few days and a few hundred miles ago. I’m loosing track of actual distances covered per day, but I know every day has been over 90, and two were over 100.  I left Fargo rejuvenated and entered Minnesota where everything is green and the lakes plentiful. I encounter my first rainstorm in 32 days and 2300 miles of riding.  I can’t begin to tell you how good it feels to be in the greatest shape of my life.  Knowing I have the power to ride 100+ a day consecutively is amazing. At this point anything under 60 miles is like a rest day, and knowing I can hop on a bike to ride that distance with ease is such a good feeling.

 

I don’t remember much from the past few days. I could write about the group of high schoolers I woke up to in a pavilion I was sleeping in last night as they were beginning their stereotypical late night smoke session in proper high schooler fashion. I could talk about how riding along the Mississippi was pretty fun for a day, or the family I stayed with in Minneapolis who had the nicest house I’ve ever seen, along with $700 worth of Brookes Saddles.

 

But right now, I’m mostly interested in trying to capture my experience form the saddle. Specifically, what it’s like to spend hours and hours alone with oneself, as well as with nature and the occasional car.   Even on my hike New Zealand, I did not reach this level of thought. I have very few distractions now.  My thru hike I was constantly thinking and worrying about food, weather, foot pain, girls.  My bike tour brings me close enough to civilization that most of these are not a worry, which frees me to let my thoughts wander.

 

I don’t think we spend enough time with ourselves. Not in the Buzzfeed “Top 10 Ways To Treat Yo Self This Weekend” way. But more so, like sitting and just letting your mind run.  See where you end up.  I road a dedicated bike trail for 112 miles yesterday and I spent almost the entire time in a green tunnel of zen.

 

With the cars gone, only the occasional runoff in the trail I had to worry about. I thought about the past, how I miss my time in New Zealand so much. I miss the crazy experiences I had with Paul, and later on with Jim. I get emotional just thinking about the great times me and Jim had there.   I wish I had someone here to share this amazing bike trail through Wisconsin with.  But the silence and solitude allow me time to process it, I think. Can’t I have both?

 

I come to the present, and begin to question, why? I’ve always been the “Why?” guy ever since I can remember. Perhaps that is why my employment and I didn’t mold together very well.  Why am I riding across the country?   It feels good and I genuinely enjoy having something to all day.  Even today’s rest day has me all antsy, I need to move along, too much time with the internet and cellphone.  I feel myself slipping back.

 

My mind drifts to the future. I can’t help but think of a book I read by Joseph Campbell a few years back during my lunch breaks, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”. This Wikipedia entry summarizes it better then I could :

 

Campbell explores the theory that important myths from around the world which have survived for thousands of years all share a fundamental structure, which Campbell called the monomyth. In a well-known quote from the introduction to The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell summarized the monomyth:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.[3]

 

I’ve been on a mysterious adventure, full of fabulous forces, beyond words.  I feel the urge to slow down and start sharing the lessons I’ve learned. The simple life is all there is. Remove distractions, and the real world comes into view.  Walden was right.

 

Fear comes over me, like a damp blanket that needs another hour in the dryer.  I remember the exact spot on the bike trail where this feeling overwhelms me.  I have the constant struggle with wanting to slow down and start working on something that is greater then myself, vs just burning through the rest of my money and working a dead end job every few months to afford a few months off where I can go escape again the maddness.

 

Bah! What will I do with myself in the future!? My mind runs through a billion scenarios.  I feel like I’m running simulations, all of which I know will never happen. Am I just a crazy person my mind begins to wonder. Snapping back to the present, I look around, I’m surrounded by dense forests. I can smell the earth working. Its so rich here, its been raining so much compared to the plains.  Thunder clouds behind me darken. My maps say 22 miles until the next town. I turn it up, 92 miles into the day and another 22 can’t be that bad. The trees beside me on either side form a canopy above me. Roots exploding from the side walls and the branches tangled. They form a tunnel of green that I journey through. This is where I am supposed to be, I love it. The future can wait.

 

 

(I don’t have much in the way of pictures, since it was a shorter time between posts. )

DSC02015[1]
The many lakes of Minnesota
IMG_20170731_224207_988[1]

IMG_20170729_140014_679[1]
A road full of dry wall screws
IMG_20170801_175702_302[1]
The Mississippi
IMG_20170802_192516_125[1]
One of the three tunnels I walked through on the bike trail. This one was over 3500 feet long. At 3 mph walking pace, I spent probably 15 minutes in here…
IMG_20170803_142718_124[1]

 

 

North Dakota

I’ve always wondered what it feels like to be at your physical limit. How do you know when that is? Isnt there always a little more you can push yourself? I think I found mine.

Eastern Montana proved to be the hardest section of the trip for me so far. The crew I was rolling with was gone, small town America made me anxious, and it was hot. So hot.

The other big complaint was the route takes you on one the worst roads for cycling. Heavy grain truck traffic and no shoulder (literally the grass was covering the white line at times) had me screaming “this road is garbage” many times out loud as another RV narrowly misses me.

The stress of riding this for several days was heavy. I cranked out my biggest day and first century of the trip at 130 miles. Actually it was 129.4 so I rode around the town to get it to 130.

The following day, 110ish miles. The tail wind is alive!

I lay under a pavilion checking the weather on my phone, headwinds tomorrow… I am restless that night, will I recover from a double century ride in time to ride tomorrow into the headwinds?

I crank out I think 60 miles to a town outside of the North Dakota border. Finally, out of this nightmare. I check my maps and I finally find a cycle shop in the next town Medora, which I am desperate need of some parts. I roll in at 9:30, they opened at 9. I don’t leave until 2:30…

I chat with the local retirees at the coffee shop about road conditions and drought, a common conversation I find myself in. I wait for the mechanic to get in, the mom and pop shop is staffed by mom and pop, and pop is grocery shopping this morning.

An older guy rolls in, his Trek barely holding together. He’s heading west and according to him, he had to make great time with this tail wind he was having. Do I tell him about my 130 mile day where I went uphill at 18mph without even pedaling and how today is hardly a “tailwind”? I refrain.

I offer him get his bike worked on first since I’m not in a hurry, I’m only doing 70 today. This guy is giving me the crazy old guy vibe, but not it the cute Pixar way.

Pop comes back and gets to work. What was supposed to be a quick fix took over two hours. New derailer, digging fishing line out of a his hub, new cassette, spoke tensioning . I watched and marveled that a bike so broken had made it this far.

I get a new chain, a bolt that fell off with my cranks I couldn’t find, and a torque wrench on the headset. I’m not a mechanic, that’s what I keep telling myself, so I pay someone to do this stuff. I knew what I needed, just not how to do it. So I sat in an idealic tourist town for 5 hours where the cowboy hall of fame is buzzing and scent of sunscreen is ever present.

I leave. It’s 103F.

I make it 8 miles to a visitor center for the Badlands area. I can’t pedal anymore, my skin feels like it’s in the microwave. Drinking 3 electrolyte tabs, I text Kevin that he is insane for riding in this heat, I don’t care if youre from Aus, it’s dangerous. A few hours later he’s checked into a motel because of heat exhaustion.

The following day I ride another century across the rolling hills of Western Dakota to Bismark. It’s hilly. Frustrating. Headwinds the whole time. “At least I know I rode a proper 100 mile day without cheating” I think to myself. I lay in my tent that night that I paid $12 to setup and wonder if I can make it to Fargo in two days, 230ish miles. A rest day there I think.

I ride another century to Gackle. It’s dead. The ice cream shop is open everyday of the week except Wednesday. It’s Wednesday. “I guess I’m vegan today” I think. My only food is 4 oatmeal packets, a bag of dates and a packet of ramen. I setup my pad and sleeping bag in a park that has seen better days, and more people I hope. I post a picture on the gram and I get bored so I surf through pictures tagged in the town. What type of pictures do people post in a town like this? Its all people on bikes. All riding through the same route, July/August. I read one picture where he talks about how he stayed in town with a bee keeper who has a hostel for cycling people. What? How did I miss this? A quick Google I realize I’m 2 blocks away.

The bicycle Oasis contains 2 beds, a shower, plenty of lawn space and wifi all for free. There is a fridge stocked full of food and is donation based. I put a fiver in and get some carrots and Gatorade. I sleep outside under the stars, it never rains here. There is a couple from NZ there that I’m super excited to talk to. They are not as enthusiastic. I retreat to my cocoon and leave them be.

I wake and I begin my ride with thoughts of Fargo. I just need to do 120 and it’s a rest day. My last rest day was over 1000 miles ago and like 16 days. Google maps says I lose 1k feet in 110 miles. That’s pretty flat and it was.

I roll into a farm, my legs can’t move another inch. 5 centuries in 7 days. I rode across North Dakota in 4 days. This is my limit.

I heard about this place from a group of people called “The Green Riders”. I ran into them a few days back and they recommended I stay here. My experience with them is deserving of its own post in similar length, but just know it’s a group of rag-tagging, crust punky people riding across the country helping plant gardens every couple days and getting almost all their food from dumpsters that grocery stores through away.

The Solbergs farm is amazing, and I have fallen in love. The chickens run free, she makes yarn from the sheep she raises and sells at the farmers market(wool and meat), she tells me about the food coop they just started in town. We stayed up way too late having one of the most heartfelt conversations. Perhaps I’m homesick I begin to think.

I spend the morning weeding her vegetable beds and she gives me a tour of the place. The ideas are flowing and I give her advice on things I’ve read in books and seen in videos. I’ve never grown a plant in my life.

The wild flower bed in front of the house brings me peace. This place is amazing I keep repeating. My heart becomes fuller and fuller. “These are my people” I think . Bandit, their Australian sheep dog, brings a flood of memories from my childhood.

I’m overwhelmed.

Was this the whole point? To end up on a family farm in North Dakota on a bike, a place that makes me question everything again?

Montana

I’m not done Montana yet, but I have a pretty crazy amount of photos to dump here. I don’t have much to say except the past week has been incredible weather and riding. This trip has gone from so much uncertainty to openness and moment to moment magic.

 
The big group I was riding with split up around Whitefish, Montana.  I continue to believe that the hardest part of these trips isn’t the physical endurance but the moment when the ‘Ill see you later’ pleasantries are exchanged knowing full well that’s highly unlikely. It makes the moments together with the amazing people you meet even more special though.

 
Glacier NP was the obvious highlight but I found so many other awesome places the past few days. 10 miles into Montana the terrain changes and the Cabinet Mountains stuck out for an amazing first day.  The hills don’t matter out here because you’re too busy smiling.  Camping out at Bull Lake while Mike played his guitar and harmonicas was another amazing night.

 
Whitefish (basically Queenstown but smaller) and the stress of riding the going-to-the-sun road in glacier weighed on me heavily so I left the next morning instead of taking a rest day.  Thankfully I ran into Mike and Gary and they were both going over the pass the next morning. After the road opened at 4pm for cyclist, I felt like I was riding in the Tour but the peloton was made up of cars.  I had a lady with a lot of anger in her life yelled our of her car ‘You ever hear of a car?!?!?!’. Sadly for her, I haven’t.

I left for the climb at 6 am and road 2 hours uphill while the sun crested over the giant rocks above me. Watching the sun paint the opposing rock walls through the climb was one of the more magical moments of my life. The road was not that busy and suprisngly a lot of turnouts to get out of the way.  Washington Pass and some of the other passes were much harder in my opinion.  Probably because those were all in the first 500 miles. I waited at the top for Mike and Gary  to congratulate them and I ran into Kevin from Aus who I meet a few days back. It was a blissful down hill (not my favorite though) and turned even more north to Canada.
The route I’m on takes you up to Waterton Lakes National Park. After a rather intense border crossing interrogation (I should really get a new passport photo), the ride around the park was absolutely stunning. I got to watch a black bear walk across the road in front of me, from behind a car thankfully.

Instantly the road turns east and I’m now in the plains. Sweet rolling hills. I’m excited for this new challenge but I miss the mountains deeply. Carving down hills and screaming up hills. I’ll be back, but now it’s time to pray for that glorious tail wind.

 

 

IMG_20170714_100546_521
First miles in Montana
IMG_20170713_114804_537
Cabinet Mountains

IMG_20170712_091632_631

DSC01600
Katie and Jeff from Ashland Oregon.

DSC01634

DSC01577
Mike playing some tunes. A real treat.

DSC01642[1]
Hobo camp
DSC01692[1]
I can’t imagine winter here
DSC01687[1]

Cyclists[1]
The crew
IMG_20170714_152606
Wallet for scale.
DSC01697
Entering Glacier National Park.
j6MQWB_Martin
We’re so excited!

DSC01693

IMG_20170716_200703_870[1]
Beautiful morning
DSC01769[1]DSC01787_1[1]DSC01751[1]DSC01758[1]

IMG_20170716_154820_834[1]
Bringing the socks and sandals terror to the Logan Pass Visitor Center
DSC01799[1]
Kevin (from Australia) going down, down, down
DSC01828[1]
Canada the following day
DSC01831[1]
Just the beginning of Waterton Lakes National Park
DSC01843[1]
Rolled up to this lil guy
DSC01832[1]DSC01847[1]

IMG_20170718_063628_928[1]
My favorite downhill
DSC01866[1]
This just dropped on the road. Whoops!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
900 miles without tightening my cranks, I am forgetful sometimes…

DSC01862[1]
Kevin caught up to me, and was super upset he missed the bear.
IMG_20170717_175854_341[1]
Farewell Rockies. (one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken)
DSC01870[1]
This guy loves Windows XP so much he built his house on the default wallpaper.
IMG_20170718_114426[1]
Passed 1k miles today.

Washington

I’m in Sandpoint, Idaho, a small tourist town right at the base of the Pend Oreille river junction with Lake Pend Oreille.  With a population of 7,000, I am surprised at the amount of coffee shacks per capita.  Apparently Viggo Mortensen has a 2nd home here. I would imagine he has more then two though.

I’m not really sure what I’m doing here. July 1st I left Seattle on my bike, the day after I turned 26, heading east. The few weeks before that were spent in Bali. I didn’t write about it as I find myself struggling for the perfect words to describe my experience there.  To summarize, it was incredibly peaceful and nourishing for my well being. A state of consciousness I find myself grasping for ever since leaving, wondering if I will ever be able to disassociate the place with the feeling.

After a week in Seattle spent primarily fighting jet lag and constant fog (figuratively, surprisingly not literately for Seattle weather), I became incredibly anxious for my bike to show up in the mail from home.  Seattle continues to be the biggest culture shock for me in all this “travel”.

After building up my bike and visiting some shops for parts, I headed out North towards the northern tier route. Since my trip has so last minute, I didn’t have time to order the official maps of the northern tier.  Trusting google maps, open sourced maps, and some random gps files I’ve found, 554 miles later I’m still alive.

I’m averaging close to 70 miles a today. It was over 100 degrees for the past 4 days. Today is my 2nd rest day and I desperately needed it. 4 mountain passes with some days over 10k feet in climbing, have done an incredibly job of locking up my leg muscles to the point I can’t bend my legs.  I feel like a seized motorcycle motor. I’m resting up and doing some pretty crazy looking stretches in attempt to loosen up my IT band and other interesting muscles in attempt to relieve the tendon pain that is product of these types of trips.  I find myself once again doing something that takes every ounce of energy and my entire mental capacity, in a journey to keep removing the unnecessary.

 

The similarities between thru hiking and cycle touring are pretty stark. I’ve somehow found a bubble of characters riding the same direction.  Too much time is spent talking about gear.  Early morning rides of pure bliss. “How many miles until the downhill?”  “What grade do you think this is? 6%?” Struggling for the last 5 miles to find a good campsite.

There are two questions asked by everyone I’ve met.  Where are you going and where are you from.  I don’t know where I’m going.  I often tell people East until I get bored.  Maybe I’ll make it coast to coast, but I’m not really sure.  I say PA is my home but I find it hard to associate and relate to it. I could say Baltimore, but apart from a few friends and many memories, there isn’t anything for me there.   Maybe I’ll find somewhere to call “home”, but the more I move around the less I feel I belong.

 

DSC01484[1]
Stereotypical starting picture
IMG_20170704_083559_681[1]
6 AM fog
DSC01504[1]
Where I belong
DSC01506[1]

Screenshot_20170703-174706[1]
Don’t attempt with cycle cross gearing.
DSC01522[1]
Climbing Rainy Pass
DSC01519[1]
First time on the PCT
DSC01523[1]
We did it.
IMG_20170703_174333_856[1]
The start of the downhill.
DSC01529[1]
No brakes for 30 miles.
DSC01527[1]LRG_DSC01545[1]

DSC01553[1]
Mike’s rig. 7000 miles since January. He is circumnavigating the US with a Taylor and 7 harmonicas. Was an absolute treat to have him play at the campsite two nights ago.
IMG_20170707_211922_617[1]
Eastern Washington, 105 that day.
DSC01548[1]
Traffic.
IMG_20170708_172046_533[1]
Last day in Washington. Absolutely beautiful place to ride across. 
 

 

 

Fin

I finished my hike over a week ago, March 28th. I did it! I walked the entire length of the South Island of New Zealand. The total distance is unknown, my maps say 1279km while others say it was 1350km on their maps, so I say 1300km to make it simple. I walked 1300km.  I’ve had a week to let that soak in. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the journey – the dark days, sunny mornings, the peaceful days, the frantic sprints, the amazing and almost mystical people, the views, the foot pain, the warm espresso’s in town, the showerless weeks, the meditative grind.  It’s only been 10 days and I miss it dearly.  I should be proud of this, and I am.  I’ve realised looking back that while I am proud of finishing a big trail, I’m more proud that I even tried. I’m proud that I took a chance, pushed past my fears and worries, and I went full in to something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve ‘risked’ a lot some have told me, potentially ruining my ‘career’, ‘future’ & ‘retirement’. I think Alan Watts said it better then I ever could:

“We are looking for something — the future — to bring us a goodie… we know we ought to have… there’s a golden goodie at the end of the line somewhere. There’s a good time coming, be it ever so far away… that one far off, divine event towards which all creation moves… we hope. And therefore we say of something that’s no good: ‘It has no future.’ I would say: ‘It has no present.’ ” – Alan Watts

Here’s a recap of my last 2/3 weeks of the trail:

 

After my few days of in Hamner Springs, I hitched back to the trail and began the section for the 3rd time, this time I knew the weather would be good and I could get over the pass by Wednesday. Rainy and cold, I made good time back to Anne Hut where I met a German girl who had a pretty similar story, she however was waiting out in the hut. This section was her first time really backpacking, ever.  A lot of people say “Nelson Lakes and the Richmond Range are the best part of the trail”, which having done them, I see why people say that. They are also the most dangerous and arduous, and if this was your first trail, oh my.

I tried to give her some advice, and told her I would do the pass with her if she wanted to, but I was leaving the next day (tuesday), not waiting for the weather to clear. The following(wednesday) was when I was to go over the pass, which was supposed to be clear weather that day.  Tuesday morning it was raining and cold again, but she decided to wait until it was sunny to go to Caroline Bivy(right before the pass), where I was going. Part way through Tuesday, the sun came out! Oh so warm. I still remember how happy I was to not have to wear every piece of clothing I was carrying.  Wednesday morning came, blue skies and clear, and sunny. PERFECT!

I got to the base of the mountain, and quickly realised, it was not nearly has scary as I had made it to be in my mind. It was actually the most fun I’ve had climbing up a mountain, and when I got to the “summit”, I was in pure joy. The views were stunning, the fresh stream was cool and delicious, and I couldn’t believe I had made it over the biggest and scariest part of the trip.

 

The next few days through Nelson Lakes National Park almost feel like a dream, or another lifetime. It was ecstasy, and it was the greatest 4 days of my life.  It’s hard to describe. Wauiu Pass was such a big mental barrier for me, and once I conquered it, I knew I could finish the trail. The footsteps became easier, the views even more stunning. it was pure bliss.

 

I hitched into Blenheim, with Martin from Utah (who wins the award for smelliest hiker of the trail), found my missing package at the post office, realized it was St. Patricks day and the hostels were buzzing, somehow got a good nights sleep, and hitched back the next morning to start the Richmond Range.

The Richmond’s were my last hard part of the trail. And they lived up to the hype. It took me 5 days to do the range, the guide ‘suggested’ was 8.  The elevation gain and loss in this section was insanity. In one long day, I only did 18km but gain over 9000 feet of elevation. The section between Mt. Rintoul and Little Rintoul, was 5km and took me 4 hours. This for me was by far the hardest and scariest section of the entire trip. Looking back, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was in the moment. I finished off the section with my first actual marathon day, 44km. This was my biggest day of the trip, but when I found out a campground had a cafe across the street, I was desperate to be there first thing in the morning buying all the muffins.

I ended up catching a group of north bound hikers, and we decided to all finish together on the Queen Charlotte track. It was an easy section, probably the easiest of the whole trail.  We had to schedule a boat pick up, so we had 4 days to do 80km. So it was short 20km days and stopping in the afternoon and just hanging out along the way at the resorts drinking coffees and wine and then finding our way to a camp spot. Other then the first 3 days being in freezing rain (again…) it was a nice luxurious way to end the trail.

 

After we got off the boat in Picton, we said our farewells and such. A few are doing the North Island, while most of us were off to our next adventures. The next day I took a bus back to Christ Church, 10 hours…, which managed to produce the worst knee pain of the whole trip. I picked up my parents the next day and we road tripped around the country for a week!  It was awesome showing them around and we had a fantastic time. It was great to see parts of the island I hadn’t got to see as they weren’t near the trail.

I’m back in Te Anau now, after dropping my parents and van off at the airport and even more hitch hiking.  I’m not sure what I’m doing next. For the first time in my life, I’m not looking forward to something else. In high school all I wanted to do was be in college, in college all I wanted to do was be in work, at work all I wanted to do was be hiking.  Now that’s done and gone, and the next thing isn’t there.  I have a few weeks to figure it out, thankfully.  I may do another walk, if my feet heal up and I feel compelled. Maybe a bike ride. Maybe just chill out somewhere. I have a lot of options, for which I am truly grateful to be in this position. I’m not sure if I’ll continue writing on here, but thank you to all who have followed and I hope you’ve enjoyed it. I quickly found out I’m not much of a writer, but I do enjoy writing from a different view of these trails.  There are so many blogs that only talk about the distances and the views and the towns, but I have always enjoyed learning more about the thoughts and struggles of the people, not necessarily the logistics and the actual trail.

 

Anyways, I have to go to my taxes. Here’s some photos. Cheers.

 

IMG_20170317_093533_235[1]
Waiau Pass!
IMG_20170318_083859_341[1]
The valley before the climb up Wauiu Pass
IMG_20170321_091542_115[1]
Mt Rintoul Summit, looking towards Little Rintoul
IMG_20170323_145532_609[1]
Richmond Ranges
IMG_20170327_150523_057[1]
The only sunny morning on the Queen Charlotte Track
IMG_20170324_120917_772[1]
Right before the Queens Charlotte Track
IMG_20170328_114344_228[1]
Finish photo!
 

IMG_20170401_171159_052[2]

IMG_20170403_140622_415[1]
Fox Glacier valley
IMG_20170403_224836_589[1]
My mother awaiting me to return to society
DSC00909[1]

DSC00657[1]
The view from up top Waiau Pass
DSC00647[1]
The climb up the pass. Spot the orange pole, thats the trail!
DSC00680[1]
Blue Lake
DSC00686[1]
Considered sacred by the Mauri, I followed the rules and did not touch or drink
DSC00692[1]
It also happens to be the clearest water on the planet. Science!
DSC00722[1]
Road walking to Richmond Range from Nelson Lakes along state highway 73, the closets I’ve come to dying on this trip.
DSC00758[1]
The climb up Little Rintoul. Again, spot the orange pole!
DSC00774_1[1]
Old Man, Little Rintoul, Mt Rintoul
DSC00777[1]
Panorma of the entire Alpine Range that I traversed. It reminded me a lot of the Whites in New Hampshire
DSC00773[1]DSC00783[1]DSC00736[1]

DSC00968[1]
Franz Joseph Glacier Valley
DSC00961[1]
Fox Glacier
DSC00813[1]
My arsenal. One does not walk for months without obsessing over footwear. 800km, 300km, 200km. I would have done a lot more in the Carins, but I did not get them in the mail until the last week or so.
DSC00817[1]
Treadless and holes out the side, I still carried them to basically the end even though I didn’t wear them the last 200km.