Adventure University

Hello everyone!

Spring is (finally) here and that mean its time for the Cleveland Metroparks Adventure University and Gear Swap event!

Its a really cool (and free) event that includes kayak demonstrations, used gear sales, local outfitters, classes/workshops and presenters giving talks on various outdoor adventure topics and a raffle at the end.

I have been chosen again this year to give a talk about Thru Hiking the Appalachian Trail (see schedule below)

So if you are in or around Berea, Ohio this Saturday (3/23) come check out the event!

Link to event:

Adventure University

Schedule of events:

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Break In

 

On Tuesday 2/19, my house in Lakewood, Ohio was broken into in the afternoon (while I was at work). Some electronics, firearms, mountain bikes and other misc items were taken by two individuals. Lakewood Detectives found footage of one guy via street cam.
The bike is a silver/black/green Schwinn mountain bike, with a yellow/green reflective belt around the handle bar stem, a tan pouch hanging from the handlebars and a black pouch under the seat. They are currently looking at other cameras in the city for more shots. The picture was taken heading north from Elbur Avenue at 2:30 in the afternoon. He had a black backpack and a red/black fishing bag (inside of which, I am assuming the stolen goods were being carried.)

I know these pictures aren’t the best quality, but if you happen to see anyone that looks like this person, or the bike, please let me and/or the Lakewood Police Department know.

Thank you

2018 Year in Review

After thru hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2017, I knew the bar was set pretty high going into 2018. But I was determined to put a new mindset, perspective on life and lessons learned on the trail to work and make 2018 just as adventurous and fun.

I got a quick start, going camping on New Years Eve (alone, if you can believe that…no one else wanted to tag along!). With temperatures below zero, it was a cold night, but I stayed warm with a little campfire, a little bit of bourbon and a warm sleeping bag.

It was a clear night and with the full moon reflecting off of fresh snow, it was nearly as bright as day. I had a blast hiking around without a headlamp, before turning in for the night.

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Later in the year, I started a backpacking club at my company! I teamed up with friend and former thru hiker  J Wiggles to lead the group on an inaugural trip the Appalachian Trail in April. We hiked over 60 miles through the southern half of the Shenandoah National Park section.

It was a lot of fun to take some new backpackers out into the woods. And somehow we managed to make it an entire week without rain!

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In May, J Wiggles and I teamed up again for a new kind of adventure. More specifically the Maumee Valley Tri-Adventure Race in North Western Ohio, consisting of a 36 mile bike course, 6 mile kayak and 8 mile hike (w/ a pack containing 20% of your body weight)

The race started off with a bang or maybe more of a pop… While pedaling up the first hill, I tried to switch gears causing my chain to pop. The chain hit the  lever for the rear wheel, somehow managing to pop it completely off the bike.  We pulled off to the side and with a flurry of action that would make a Nascar pit crew proud, managed to get everything back together inside of 3 minutes and get back in the race.

As we made our way around the road course we fought against a 20-30mph head wind that, despite several turns, always seeemed to be in our face. The same wind, carried over to the kayak portion as well, blowing hard enough to nearly bring the kayak to a halt during any lull in paddling despite the rivers current. We were more than happy to get into the woods and stretch our legs for the backpacking portion of the race.

Overall we were pretty happy with the results. We finished 9th in our class with an overall time of 6 hours 44 minutes. [Bike: 2 hrs 33 min, Kayak: 1 hr 42 min, Backpacking: 2 hrs 18 mins]. Not bad for a couple of hikers!

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June would bring a really fun trip out to Phoenix, Arizona. I got to hike Camelback mountain and took a trip out to the Superstition mountains and tackled Flat Iron mountain via the Siphon Draw trail. It is incredible how much life there is in the desert! I also checked off an item on my nature bucket list, seeing a stereotypical cactus (essentially the cactus you are picturing from any kind of cartoon/drawing of a cactus you’ve probably ever seen). They are surprisingly hard to find in the wild!

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In August I headed down to West Virginia with my girlfriend Amy to tackle our first Spartan Race.  The 13 mile course went up and over seemingly every mountain in the area, with 30 obstacles sprinkled in between. They throw everything from log carries, wall climbs, barbed wire crawls to spear throwing (my favorite) at us.

My knee started hurting a bit towards the last mile, causing me to slow down any time the race went down as steep downhill, crossed or ran along a pavement stretch. Despite the slow down, we finished in 4 hrs, 53 minutes.  I was 117 out of 452 in my age group and Amy finished 17th out of 188 in her age group, though I am convinced that slowing down to stay with me at the end was the only thing that kept her out of the top ten!

 

Later in the Month I hit the AT again with J- Wiggles down in TN and NC. Our luck with the rain didn’t hold up and we got soaked a couple of days but still had a blast. On the way home we stopped in Virginia to see my friend Doug, who I hiked the first quarter of the AT with in 2017. We hiked up into the Grayson Highlands and were treated to a nice sunny day that saw plenty of wild ponies wandering around. It couldn’t have been a much different scene than the blizzard I was hit with while hiking through the area a year before!

 

October saw another backpacking club outing, this time to Zaleski State Park in Southern Ohio. While not as challenging as the AT, it was a nice 3 day trek through the woods and everyone seemed to have a good time.

 

 

To finish off the year on an adventurous note, Amy and I rented a small cabin near Gatlinburg TN and did some hiking in the Smokies. Parking at Newfound gap, We hopped on the AT and hiked up along the ridge line to Ice water Spring Shelter then to Charlies Bunion. This stretch was one of my favorites when I came through the Smokies in 2017 and it was neat to relive some of the memories (though thankfully the weather was above freezing and there wasn’t a bunch of snow!)

 

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Finally, what trip to the Smokies would be complete without Moonshine! We had a great time sampling our way through several moonshine places on the strip before heading back up to our cabin to ring in the new year.20181231_153643[1]

 

2018 was a busy year full of fun, friends and adventure, I can’t wait to see what 2019 brings!

 

Happy New Year Everyone!

Favorite Places on the Appalachian Trail: Maine

Maine was one of the states I looked forward to the most while planning my thru hike. Outside of being the final sate on a northbound thru hike, it has some of the most rugged terrain and sections of trail on the whole trek. In Maine you were really “out there” or as much as you can b on the east coast.  Steep ascents, rocky alpine summits, very little switchbacks, Maine was one final test of a North Bound Thru hiker.20170630_101007

Perhaps the most famous part of the AT in Maine (outside of Katahdin) is the Mahoosuc Notch. Sometimes referred to as the hardest mile on the AT. I had been looking forward to this section since first reading about it online while planning my trip. It’s basically a steep, deep and narrow ravine filled with a jumbled mess of large rock formations, boulders ranging in size from car to house size and downed trees.

 

I had a blast there climbing up over boulders, scooting through little caves and just looking around in awe of the sheer ruggedness of the terrain.  As far as being difficult, it wasn’t easy, but in a fun way. It was slow going and took maybe an hour to get through the mile-long stretch. Though much of that time was standing in front of various obstacles and plotting a route over, under or around.

Here are a couple pictures, though it is truly one of those places that is hard to capture via photograph.

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(Click to expand pictures to full size)

 

Another great place was Saddleback mountain. With its exposed alpine ridgeline and panoramic views, it was one of the most picturesque spots on the trail. Almost reminding me of Franconia Ridge in a way

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A great off trail memory from Maine, was the Plaza hotel and Lounge in Stratton Maine, and Kathy’s Karaoke. Our little hiking group stopped in town for a resupply and ended up staying at the lounge singing eating, drinking and singing Karaoke until close!

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Of course the 100-mile wilderness has to make the list. With its remote sections of trail, cool clear streams and ponds, wildlife and great views. It was also sort of a victory lap for our hiking group. We took our time, packing in some drinks, and took full advantage of what would be our last days on trail. From steaming fresh water mussels on a beach, to enjoying a natural Jacuzzi we had a great time those last few days.

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Finally, Mt Katahdin. The Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail and the epic climax of an incredible journey. Looking back on the terrain and elevation gain, it seems incredible how easily we seemed to make it to the top, being carried on the wings of euphoria and adrenaline.

 

It was a very surreal feeling standing on the top facing the famous summit sign. I didn’t know how to react. Almost like “Ok, we finished…now what?”

The scenery was absolutely incredible. 360 degree views of the Maine Wilderness. I could have spent all morning there! I am absolutely looking forward to coming back one day to explore the summit a little more as well as the surrounding area.

 

So that wraps up my Favorite places on the Appalachian Trail mini-series. I had a lot going on over the past year and writing kind of fell by the wayside. However, I am looking forward to getting the blog up and running again with more frequent updates (stay tuned for a year end recap!). In addition to working on my book, which has turned into an adventure all of its own!

Favorite Places on the AT: New Hampshire

From the moment I began planning my thru hike in 2016, I was looking forward to the New Hampshire stretch of the AT. There was just something different about the state. It seemed more scenic, rugged and quite frankly, different than the rest of the trail. Its steep climbs leading to exposed peaks and ridge lines above the treeline lent a certain sense of adventure to the trek.

And did I mention Omelets?!

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Two days into New Hampshire, I came across Carl the “Omelet Guy”. He sets up a little camp kitchen just off a section of trail and cooks eggs for passing hikers, asking only for a summit picture or two in return. Before I left the cool little stand, I had beaten the previous year’s record by downing a 24 egg omelet with peppers, onions and cheese!

The next few days were a rugged introduction to the coming weeks of trail. The concept of time/distance I had developed over the last couple months was completely thrown out the window. I remember taking more than 10 hours to finish a 16 mile day, up and over the Kinsman mountains.

It would all be worth the effort though, as I made it up to Franconia Ridge. The ridge had recently been rated as one of the top ten hikes in the entire world and it was easy to see why. the exposed ridge line stretched out in front of me for several miles, rising and falling over several rocky peaks.

This was one of the moments I had been waiting for, since the beginning of the trip. I couldn’t help but giggle like a little kid as I took my time walking along the ridge taking in the spectacular views. It was like stepping into the pages of National Geographic or Backpacker magazine. I did my best to capture the moment with a few pictures, but quickly found it impossible to do the place justice with a mere photograph. This is certainly one of the places I would revisit in a heartbeat!

For any thru hikers reading this, make sure you catch the ridge on a clear day. If needed, take a zero (or two) to catch a nice day, you will not be disappointed. This is easily one of the top 5 sections of the entire trail, don’t miss out!

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Another place I was looking forward to was Mt Washington. With its infamous weather changes and steep rocky ascent, it was everything I had hoped for (except for a view!).

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It was threatening to storm all morning and was completely fogged in all the way to the top.  By the time I reached the summit, it was so foggy, you could barely make out the weather station buildings from 10ft away! The summit had a nice little snack shop and a couple of buildings, but I didn’t stick around long. There was something a little off-putting about struggling up a steep mountain, just to find a crowd of people stepping off the cog wheel trail or walking over from the parking lot.

After coming down from Mount Washington, I ended the day early at the Mt Madison hut. Getting driven in by a thunderstorm that would produce hail and near freezing temps. Once it passed though, we were all treated to a perfect sunset!

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New Hampshire was an incredible state and definitely worth a visit, whether on the AT or one of the many other trails in the area.  Aside from southern Maine, you pretty much have to go way out West for this type of rugged, above treeline hiking and incredible views.

 

Stay tuned for the next post where I will finish up with Maine!

Update

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It has been a while since my last blog post/update for everyone that has been following along from the start, I apologize. There has been a lot going on in both the personal and professional side of life these past few months.

I am going to continue the series of post “Favorite places on the AT” shortly, picking up in New Hampshire and finishing off with Maine (shouldn’t be hard to find good memories of those two states!)

As for progress on my book… I have put that on hold for the summer. With everything going on, I have not been able to commit the time, energy and most importantly the effort. I had reached a point where I kept catching myself, writing simply to write. Trying to finish the book just for the sake of finishing it. That is not the path I want to take. My journey up the trail was too special to be marginalized in a rushed effort to put ink on paper. I really want to capture the essence of the trail, the incredible sights, the fantastic people and all the adventures between Springer and Katahdin. I want to make every effort possible to do justice to the trip of a lifetime.

Finally, stay tuned for more adventure, I may be hitting the AT again later in the summer. The planning is still in the works, but I am already getting excited at the prospect of parts of the trail again. Especially a section that I passed through before spring had really taken hold!

Back to the Trail!

Hello everyone!

Its been a while since my last post, but some exciting/fun things have happened since!

Earlier this year, I started a backpacking club at the company I work at. I started them out with several presentations about gear, best practices and various tips/tricks. We went on a local day hike and then a week ago we went down to Virginia to hike on the AT for a week!

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We began at Rockfish gap after being dropped off by Adam aka “Stanimal” owner of an awesome hostel that I stayed in, last year while thru hiking.

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We worked out way north over the course of the next six days, camping at the shelters each night. I was a little surprised how many thru hikers we came across this early in the year!

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Most of the group had never been on a backpacking trip of any length, but took to the trail very well for beginners. They got a feel for the trail, looked out for the blazes and learning how to read the guidebook for distances and water sources. After a couple days on trail, there were a few minor injuries/ailments, but they all overcame them and pushed through. That is the true mark of a good backpacker!

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It was really fun to get back into the swing of trail life. Nothing to do but wake up in the morning, hike all day, and set up camp at night. In between was everything from quiet reflection while hiking, to good old wacky trail conversations to singing the soundtrack to the lion king as a group!

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In addition to teaching them about backpacking and the trail, I made sure they all got a feel for the finer points of the hiker trash life! I picked up a couple bottles of blackberry wine and some cheese on the last night, emptying the two bottles into a water bladders I had. When we made it to the shelter for the night, I dug out a little spring from a trickle of water under a boulder and chilled the wine and cheese in the ice cold water for a last night treat!

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By weeks end, we had hiked 70 miles, pretty good for a bunch of new backpackers. In addition to leaving with a bunch of good memories, each member of the group took home a trail name of their own!

20180504_115303(0).jpgFrom left to right: Shortcut, J Wiggles, Norwegian Wood, Anchor, Purge, Socks.

Finally, a big thank you to Fred “Anchor”, he was the inspiration for the trip and the backpacking club itself. Without him, the trip would likely not have happened, and certainly not been as good of a time.

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In other news, J Wiggles and I just completed a 50 mile adventure race near Toledo Ohio this past weekend! It was a 36 mile bike course, a 6 mile kayak and an 8 mile hike with pack (spoiler alert, being former thru hikers….we crushed the hiking portion!)

The weather had gotten progressively worse throughout the week and on race day it was in the upper 40s with a strong wind blowing across the course. The bike course ran mostly through country roads surrounded by open farm country. With nothing to block the wind, we were blasted for much of the bike portion, making any kind of decent pace as struggle.

The wind was just as bad on the Kayak portion as well, blowing directly against us the entire time. It was really difficult keeping the tandem kayak facing directly into the wind, while avoiding logs, rocks and shallow parts of the river. That being said, we did pretty well and made good time.

Once the kayak part was over, we slung our packs on and blasted our way through the hiking portion. Having both thru hiked the AT last year, it was fun hiking on mostly flat terrain for 8 miles.

We finished the race with a respectable time of 6:34 for the entire 50 mile course. Our bike section was 2:33, kayak was 1:42 and the hike was 2:18. Not bad for our first adventure race (and little to no training!)

Image may contain: Sean Drapac and Megan Cox, people smiling, outdoor and nature

 

 

Favorite Places on the AT: Vermont

The next state in this little series is Vermont! Or, by its more common trail nickname, “Vermud”. This nickname, more than held true for my first couple days in the state, as I crossed the border on the heels of a two-day rainstorm. But despite the mud, flooded trails and newly hatched bugs, there was plenty to enjoy in the Green Mountain State.

The entrance to Vermont is marked by the beginning of the Long Trail, the oldest long distance hiking trail in the US. It goes north through Vermont for nearly 250 miles, sharing the first 100 miles or so with the Appalachian Trail. In fact, it was actually the inspiration for the Appalachian Trail. It was interesting to run into and chat with other hikers during that stretch, who were thru hiking the Long Trail.

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One of my favorite memories of Vermont, was the many Beaver ponds that dotted the wilderness. I still remember the first time I heard one slap its tail on the water, I actually thought a hiker had fallen into the pond and raced around the bend to help, only to find a beaver swimming around in circles, no doubt laughing at me!

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Next is Stratton Mountain, which was marked by a fire tower and a plaque marking it as the inspiration for the Long trail and in turn the Appalachian Trail. That particular day, the black files were out in full force and the trail had been particularly muddy, so I was having a tough time imagining anyone being inspired to build anything within a 100 mile radius! But upon climbing the fire tower, I was given a reprieve from the flies and when I was able to look around, it was clear to see why the area was so inspirational. There was a see of green in every direction, broken up only by the occasional mountain pond. Best of all, there was  a Dinosaur watching over everything!

 

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Later that same day, I made it to the top of Bromely Mountain, which is home to a ski resort in the winter. There was a giant ski lift and warming hut at the top and fantastic views of the sunset and later, sunrise views. The one room warming hut was left open, so I set up camp inside, away from the biting flies and cool evening temps.

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“The Lookout” was another cool place in Vermont. It was a shelter atop one of the mountains, that had a steep ladder leading to a platform built on top. It was a nice place to rest for a bit and chat with other hikers while taking in the panoramic views before heading back up the trail.

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Finally, what post about the Appalachian Trail would be complete without mentioning Randy’s place? Directly across from the White river, just before leaving Vermont, is Randy’s house. He welcomes hikers from the trail with a cooler of bear and a plate of eggs or pancakes! There were about a dozen of us that stayed that day, eating, drinking and jumping off of the bridge into the cool, clear waters of the White River.

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So that wraps up this edition of Favorite Places on the Appalachian Trail! The next edition in the series will be New Hampshire and I am already looking forward to searching through oldmemories and pictures in an impossible attempt to capture the beautiful state in one blog post!

 

Finally, an update on the presentation I mentioned in the last post. Megan “Wiggles” and I will be giving a presentation this coming Sunday at the Adventure University event put on by the Cleveland Metroparks. The talk will focus on things you can do to improve your hiking experience, stay happy and enjoy your time out on the trail!

Our presentation will begin at 11am but the entire event runs from 9am to 12pm, and includes a used gear sale, kayak demonstrations in the pool, outdoor exhibits and a couple other presentations. So if you are in the Northeast Ohio Area, come check it out!

See the link below for more details and a full schedule of events. And if you do make it out, don’t be shy, come up and say hi!

Adventure University

 

Thanks for reading!

Sean “Purge”

 

 

Favorite Places on the AT: Massachusetts

It has been a while since my last update, I have had (and am still having) some computer issues, but am slowly getting back on track. Anyhow, its time to continue our series of Favorite Places on the AT and this week brings us to Massachusetts (Woohoo! I actually spelled it right on the first try!!)

Massachusetts sort of lulls you in, with relatively flat easy terrain at the beginning, before climbing back up into the mountains near the Vermont border. It rained nearly every day I was in Massachusetts,  but nevertheless, there were a few spots that come to mind when I think back to my time in the state.

The first of which was Upper Goose Pond. I had heard about the area from some other hikers a couple days earlier. It was a simple two-story rustic cabin that hikers were welcome to stay in. No running water, electric or any other convinces beyond a half-dozen bunk-bed and a roof over our heads. Oh, did I mention pancakes! The caretakers fired up  propane stove and made coffee and pancakes for hikers the next morning! The would turn out to be the best pancakes I had anywhere on the trail! I also took some time to fish in the pond and caught a few bluegill and sunfish before hiking on the next day.

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Next is Mt Graylock or should I say the lodge on top of mt Graylock. On the trek up the mountain, a storm hit that brought fog, deafening cracks of thunder, brilliant flashes of lightning and torrential downpours. Already being most of the way up the mountain, i had no choice but to push on in hopes of seeking some kind of shelter. Luckily, the lodge was open, and offered a bunk room for hikers. A few of us hunkered down at the lodge for the night and ended up staying the next night too, as the weather pinned us down. Tough to be a dry bed, hot shower and good food in the middle of a storm!

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When the weather finally cleared, we headed down the flooded trail and into the town of North Adams. Needing to resupply, we were thrilled to find a sign that offered free loaner bikes to hikers that wanted to pedal into town. It felt good to be back on a bike after hiking for several months and true to the saying, I didn’t forget how to ride!

To this day, it makes me smile at the thought of a town going this far out of their way to welcome hikers passing through.

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Finally Ice Gulch, rounds out the list of favorite places in Massachusetts. It was a deep ravine cut into the side of a mountain surrounded by high cliffs and pine trees. Its depth and position created a sort of micro climate, easily 20-30 degrees cooler than the surrounding area. It stays so cold that sometimes snow and ice can be found at the bottom, well into late spring/early summer, though it was empty when I passed through. Unfortunately I do not have a very good picture of the area, the sheer size and depth was too difficult to capture in a single shot. Truly a place you needed to witness first hand.

 

That wraps up this edition of favorite places on the AT, tune in next time for Vermont! Also, I am waiting on final confirmation (supposed to come by Monday) for an appearance/presentation at a local event in town. I will share the details as soon as it is confirmed (hopefully early next week).

As always thanks for reading and if you have any trail related questions or comments, please feel free to ask/share!

 

Sean “Purge”

Every Journey Begins with a Single Step

Today marks the one year anniversary of the day I began my journey up the Appalachian Trail!

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Walking through that old stone arch began an incredible five month adventure that brought new challenges, beautiful scenery and new friends around every turn.  Looking back, it almost doesn’t seem real at times. Like the dirty, bearded guy in the picture on top of Mt Katahdin was just another hiker that I had read about online or in a book on the trail.

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Then there are days when I hear a certain sound, feel a breeze or look up at a tree, that I flash back to a particular place on the trail and its as though I never left. Or perhaps, that the trail never left me…

Anyway, I apologize for not updating the blog over the past couple weeks, I have been a little busy at work. Both with my actual job and…starting a Backpacking Club at my company!

The owner came to me with the idea a few months ago to start a club and plan out a week long backpacking trip to the Appalachian Trail. Needless to say, I was beyond excited and have been busy planning the logistics of the trip as well as laying out discussions/classes for beginning backpackers. I am really excited to  be able to introduce new hikers to the outdoors and the Appalachian Trail!

I will also get back to my weekly blog post this week and plan on continuing the “Favorite Places on the Appalachian Trail” Series. I’ll also have another update on the progress of my book (thank you all for your support and patience throughout the project!)

 

Until next time, have a great day and go Adventure!

Thanks,

Sean “Purge”