I’m back.

Living life without compromise. It shouldn’t be a difficult thing to do (especially for a former A.T. thruhiker), but sometimes life just sucks and what you want is not going to happen right now. What do you do when certain dreams are temporarily out of reach? Get some sleep so you can have another dream.

Fact: My body is not ready for another thru-hike right now.

I will admit that I was very bitter about this fact. Because of that, I have not posted anything on my blog in over a year. Since my last post, I have been working hard at getting my body back to its own age. The reality is, I’m suffering from pains and weaknesses that people don’t experience until they are twice or even three times my age. I have been explaining myself and what I am going through for long enough, so its time for a break. My dream of hiking the PCT is not broken, just postponed.

Life is too short to spend all of your time thinking about the things you can’t do. If you find yourself at home most of the time because you’re depressed about all the out of reach things, then reach again and grab the most beautiful thing within reach. It might not be “world class hiking”, but it could be “world class surfing.” Only one word is different, so what does it matter.

See you. On the trail, on the river, in the ocean, wherever…
~Stretch

Want to see pictures of LIVING? Stay tuned.

T – 4

I woke up this morning, and for whatever reason I decided to get up and start moving instead of pushing snooze until noon. Not even half an hour after I got out of the shower, I get a phone call from someone interested in buying my car. He was five minutes down the road when he called, and I hadn’t even gotten dressed yet. Within the first ten seconds of meeting him, I knew he was going to buy my car. Both his attire and attitude screamed Honda Accord with euro aftermarket tail lights and rims. We chatted for a bit, then he took the car for a spin, loved it, and an hour later I was trading him the the title and vehicle for cash.

As I was driving my first car for the last time, I got a call from a guy at work saying that my Patagonia Vented Spoonbill hat had arrived. Is this not the best day ever? The hat is the most ridiculous thing I could find, but probably the most practical. It has an extra-wide, extra-long brim for maximum face protection. As a bonus, I can use the massive brim as a pad to sit on. Also, it comes equipped with a short flap on the sides and back that is stitched in a way that holds it out and away from your neck and ear-holes. I don’t need to chaff, and I don’t need to be deaf. On the top of the hat, semi transparent mesh makes the hat very breathable, without compromising the UV protection (hopefully). There is even a synch cord to go under my chin so it doesn’t fly away in high winds (lets not repeat what happened when I crossed Fontana Dam on the A.T.) Now, of course I had to pick the best color the hat came in. It looks like snot that came out of a baby’s nose. Nasty yellow/green…MY color. It will match my yellow leopard-print “Dirty Girl” gaiters. I will have good reason to embrace the ridiculousness of this hat when my fellow hikers are complaining about their ears turning into potato chips.

So I have some extra cash to survive on for the next few months. I can eat well sitting underneath (or overneath) my stupid looking hat.

Sunshine. I cannot wait…

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~Stretch

Gillette. “The best a man can get.”

I will be leaving for the Pacific Crest Trail in eleven days. My mind is pretty clear, and I have enjoyed everyone’s questions, but today I began asking MYSELF questions. Things like “Is this really happening? I’m going to walk across the continent for the second time? Wait…I hiked the entire Appalachian Trail? What did you call me? Stretch? Who is that?”

To keep the questions at bay, I looked my summit photo. The one where I am shirtless and holding my pack above my head just before heaving it as far away from me as possible, hoping never to have to carry a sweaty, smelly backpack again. Even seeing a picture of myself at the finish of a trail so epic, I cannot conjure up any answers to my questions. I still do not understand why. Why thru-hike?

Later I found myself just staring at that picture. STARING. I could not look away. I wasn’t lost in thought anymore. No, I was utterly mortified. I was staring at the BEARD. So today I shaved my beard for the last time in hopefully five or six months.

I AM Stretch, and I do know one thing for sure. It’s almost time to go for a walk in the mountains.

Final Shave.

Final Shave.

Hunger for More than Just Food

I can’t wait for the sun and moon and stars above me, the mountains and trees and critters all around me, the trail registers with my name signed in them, the headphones blasting tunes in my ears, the camera in my hand ready for big-foot, the pack on my trail hardened back, sunglasses on my suntanned face, the food in my bottomless stomach…all of it. but most of all i cannot wait for the trail beneath my feet and the dust on my calves.
~Stretch

Backpacking the Manistee River Trail/NCT: September 20-22, 2013

September 13th.

Two years ago today at 7:36 AM I looked up and saw this for the first time. I had been walking for six months and thirteen days, and this was finally the end. Really I had been walking for over two years. After putting my dream on hold for a year due to an overuse injury in my leg, I took a chance and went back to the place that humbled me. Instead of picking up where I had left off the year prior, I started from scratch. I walked my heart out up and over more than three hundred mountains, never quitting or even thinking that I was ready to quit. I hiked through the pain of blistering, bloody, bruised feet with trench foot. I kept walking even with excruciating shin splints. I ran from no-see-ums trying to bite me and fly into my ears for 500 miles and another 800 miles of black flies buzzing in circles around my head (which was one of the most difficult and annoying parts of my entire trip). I didn’t quit when I had lyme disease and about 4 square feet of poison ivy rash all over my body all at the same time. Where there wasn’t an ivy rash, there was hives. Needless to say my entire body itched. I even hiked through rugged western Maine when hurricane Irene was right on top of us, and a week of consistent river flooding rain after that. No matter what was in my way, I hiked. After all these soul crushing things, I looked up from staring at my feet for over 2000 miles. I had finally taken control of the 3 hour emotional roller-coaster when I lifted my head to look for a blaze on this rocky, rugged alpine mountain. Behind that white blaze was something that was…strangely just as familiar to me as the hundreds of thousands of white blazes I saw. It was something I had never seen before in person, but I knew exactly what I was looking at. It was almost like it was a person who I had a become very good friends with, without ever having met until this very instance. I looked up, and this is what I saw. It was a sign. Not just any sign, though. An iconic image bolted to a wooden triangle frame that was tied down to the summit of Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The second I looked up and saw the image that was burned into my mind, I was overcome by emotion. My knees buckled, my eyes welled up, and I tried to speak, but could not voice words. I !@#%$ did it. My name is Stretch, and on September 13, 2011 at 7:36 AM, I finally became a thru-hiker.

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