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.
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!
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!
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!
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!)
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.
2018 was a busy year full of fun, friends and adventure, I can’t wait to see what 2019 brings!
Happy New Year Everyone!