I’m finally taking off for the woods. After living in the Pacific Northwest for three years, I plan on spending the next three months celebrating the beauty and simplicity of its backcountry. We start on the Continental Divide, which rests on the snowy mountains of Glacier National Park in Northern Montana. Heading West through the panhandle of Northern Idaho, we cross several mountain ranges in Washington, including the Cascades in which I played for the past three years. Ultimately, with 1200 miles under our feet we will conclude this this summer’s great adventure on Cape Avala (which I finally just learned how to pronounce) of the Olympic Peninsula.
I will be traveling with two of my favorite people. Kristyn Reith, a dear friend from college, and I go back to sophomore year, when we decided to travel to Malawi together. We have several great adventures planned for our lifetime, and this just squeezed its way into it. She has done an awesome job preparing for the trip. Although from Long Island, NY, she is drawn to the mountains. I’m looking forward to watching her take on this challenge.
Miles Griffin is my old roomie from JVC Northwest. He and I shared a tiny little bedroom in Hillsboro, OR, where we listened to podcasts every night when we fell asleep and celebrated the sun (on those rare occasions that we saw it) with happy dances when we’d wake up. He has been teaching at an outdoor school near Big Bear, California, and has been dreaming of a long, thru-hike as long as I’ve known him. I’m super excited for his positive spirit on the trail. Although we wish he could join us for the whole trail, it looks like we will be missing him for the first week or so.
We will be staying in the finest abodes along the way, eating some of the fanciest cuisine known to our species: A cozy little tent and lots of candy bars. The name of the game is preparation. We have loosely planned out how many miles we will walk each day, potential campsites, and places where we will resupply on food, either at the local grocery stores, or by the USPS, courtesy of our loving, worriless moms.
If you do not share the unquenchable draw to the woods and the mountains, you may be asking why we are doing this. I can attempt to answer that, although the reason is far more instinctual than anything. I love a lot about my life, and have discovered a number of things that give me life. Family, and the unconditional love and support we pour on each other is one. The people I have grown to love along the way mean the world to me. I have discovered work that is truly valuable and meaningful for me and my community at HomePlate, where the youth of Washington County, OR find support, family, friends, unconditional care and respect, and genuine positivity. That is a beautiful place. The list of things that make me feel alive goes on, including music, dancing, exercise, food, art, sports, words, home, sharing, kids, adventure, memory, quotes, potential, and freedom. However, my heart and soul are most enflamed in dance when I am in the wilderness.
My definition of home is always broadening. Home is with family, with friends. Home is a feeling, when you are perfectly content and comfortable. Home comes with direction and guidance. One of my favorite verses from any song comes from an extremely talented folk/bluegrass band called Trampled by Turtles. It sums up, although in a romantic musical way, how I feel about my home for the next three months:
My home is with the hills and trees around me
My ceiling holds the moon and stars above
So I’ll never be a lonely man a’walking
I’ll never live one day without love
What do I look forward to? The simplicity. The adventure. The unpredictability. The adaptability. The freedom. The soreness. The home on my back. The people I will meet along the way. The time I get to share with two of my favorite people. The time. I will follow my thoughts wherever they go.
What I did to prepare…
I relearned how to eat meat. Thanks to Katie Mays’ fine cooking, she reintroduced salmon first, then chicken. I took a mountaineering course through the Mazamas. I became a certified Wilderness First Responder. I’ve conditioned. I attempted to fatten up, mostly unsuccessfully (although those two bags of cookies are gone, Mom). I spent months researching gear, acquiring it, testing it, and replacing it. I planned several places where my Mom will send resupply boxes along the way, and created the food boxes. I spoke to a number of friends who have done long trails, like the PCT and AT, who offered loads of helpful advice. I kept in touch with my two companions, as they too went through weeks of preparation. Reith has been walking over a dozen miles every day with her giant back pack on, confusing all her neighbors, just to build the strength and conditioning. Miles has been meticulously picking every ounce of gear, and has helped me in the gear department as well.
If you are following this, I’m taking you all along with me. The format of this blog was inspired by a friend who did the PCT last year, and who gave me loads of helpful advice for this trail (Thank you again, Robin and Terra!). I will be writing, probably on topo maps as we roll through the land, everything I would put on this blog if I were bringing a laptop (which I’m not, in case that wasn’t assumed). I will mail my notes, thoughts, drawings, and notable experiences to my design wizard roomie, Katie Mays (and that’s just her first name), who will scan and post them on this here blahg. I will also, thanks to Mom Fitz, be carrying a SPOT satellite GPS messenger, which allows me to press one button and it will send a google earth link to my exact location to the few chosen ones (sorry, space is limited on recipients). You all are welcome to join us on the trail at any point! We will keep you updated on some post offices where we will stop along the way. Keep in mind, we have to carry anything you send, so keep it lightweight and/or consumable. A heads up would also be great! Some have asked if they could join us along the way. Totally! Just know, there is not going to be much we can do help you prepare, but follow this blog and you should have an idea of where we are, where we are going, and when we will be there. Definitely shoot me an email if you’re planning to jump in the fun with us.
There are a bunch of people I want to thank, but right now, I’m going to keep it short. First, Katie Mays is making this happen. From here on out, she is pretty much doing the blogging. Also, if you think I created this fancy blog page, you’re wrong…all Katie Mays. She is also driving us ALL THE WAY to the trailhead. Say what? Yes. Katie Mays has generously included our transportation in the beginning of her great tour de NW National Parks. When I was stressing out about having to eat meat, she helped me by preparing fine meals with delicious and happily raised animals. When my house threw a little going away gathering at my house for me, she spent all day cooking amazing food. This lady is quite a friend, and I am wildly grateful.
Second, and finally, my parents have been super patient and supportive as I take off on a loooong adventure. If you’ve met my parents, you know they’re pretty special people. I couldn’t ask for two greater role models and supporters. They have supported me and my adventures across the country and around the world, even when it worried them (mostly my Mom) sick. Long distance hiking is a bit of a foreign concept to midwesterners, so they did their research, asked their questions, asked them again, and again, and again, and then asked how they could support me. Mom will be sending me resupply packages along the way (with a a bag of homemade cookies?). Dad will be helping to ease Mom’s worries. You two are amazing, and quite a team. Love you both a ton.
One last pitch. The idea to walk for a cause came too late. As most of you know, I worked for HomePlate for the past three years. That place rocked my world. It is an amazing community, where close to 1000 homeless and at-risk youth found support last year with a staff of 4.25. The organization, and all of the staff, volunteers, youth, and community partners all have a special place in my heart. So, although the idea to raise money for HomePlate is tardy, do me a favor and check out the website. If there is any way you can support the beautiful cause, I encourage you to do so! It is www.homeplateyouth.org.
It might come as a surprise, but I don’t actually love sitting in front of a computer for too long. So, I’m signing off. I hope you all have a wonderful time while I am on the trail. Although I’ll be off the grid, I’ll be checking my email from time to time, so feel free to get in touch if you must. Know that responses will be sparse.
From here on out, our boots will tell the story. Hope you like it!