Thursday, August 11, 2011

New Website

In 2008, Katherine "Ringleader" Imp had an idea for a documentary. Not knowing anything about film, Kate called one of her closest friends, Jason Furrer (a film producer and editor in Los Angeles), gave her best pitch, and asked him to co-produce a film about three people hiking the Appalachian Trail. He said yes. Now, years later, with the help of Brandon Imp, Emily Ginger, and a number of others, Kate and Jason have created a film worthy of audience attention. This blog was used to capture the hearts and minds of thousands of readers during Kate, Brandon, and Emily's Appalachian Trail thru-hike in 2010. The new website, however, offers the most up-to-date information about the film they created while hiking from Georgia to Maine.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

One Year Ago

ONE YEAR AGO the Traveling Circus set forth on the adventure of a lifetime.  With the use of YouTube, Picasa, WhiteBlaze, Blogspot, and Facebook, we brought our journey into the homes of thousands of people across the United States.  We documented everything from our thoughts to our eating habits, and offered our viewers a unique look into an Appalachian Trail thru-hike from the perspective of a lawyer, an ivy grad, and a city chick.

Though we have continued to post entries regarding our transition back to the "real world," our new focus is on the documentary.  In conjunction with One Way Street Productions, the Traveling Circus will be releasing a documentary later this year.  We intend to wrap up post-production in June 2011.

For those of you interested in following a new set of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, we suggest the following:
  • Dan and Kaitlin - The Traveling Circus met Dan and Kaitlin in the Whites.  They gave us a blueberry cheescake dessert that was to die for!
  • Onward and Upward - The Traveling Circus has interacted with Onward (Helena) and Upward (Barry) via email.  Awesome blog!!
  • Trail Journals - Many thru-hikers use this site to write about their journey.  This could distract you for hours, beware!!! 
  • Virginia Trail Guide - Okay, not an AT blog.  But a really great blog about Virginia's hiking and biking opportunities written by Adam and Christine, one of the most kick-ass couples we met on the trail.
For those of you who haven't read our most recent blog entries, check out:
For those of you interested in being on our listserv, contact us here.

Thanks again for following! Enjoy!

The Perfect High

Written By: Katherine "Ringleader" Imp

I’m high. Right now. Sitting on the public bus. Listening to music. At 8am. Next to a dude that smells like urine. I’m high as a kite.

My mama told me when I was young
We’re all born superstars

Should I be waiting for the other shoe to drop? This is absurd! I haven’t cried once since leaving the trail. I haven’t felt angry or sad or lost or bored in 7 months!

She rolled my hair, put my lipstick on
In the glass of her boudoir

This can’t be normal. Maybe I should see a doctor about this.

There’s nothin’ wrong with lovin’ who you are,
She said, ‘Cause He made you perfect, babe

Or maybe . . . I finally found it.

So hold your head up, girl and you’ll go far,
Listen to me when I say

The perfect high.

I’m beautiful in my way,
Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby

Before law school, I taught a few wilderness courses with Outward Bound and Landmark Volunteers and one of my favorite stories to share was, “The Perfect High,” written by Shel Silverstein. It’s a story about a drug addict, named Gimmie-Some-Roy, who was in search of the perfect high. He went “up a trail no man could conquer, to a cliff no man could climb. . . . He’d sit and cry, then climb some more, pursuing the perfect high.”

And of course good ole’ Baba Fats, whose wisdom Roy had sought, gave the answer that no one likes, which was: Find it in yourself!

Great poem. Great writer. Great message. But I'm not sure I completely agree -- If I had found the “perfect high” within myself before the trail, would I have ever attempted a thru-hike? Would anyone?

I’ve always been intrigued by nature’s ability to transform. It’s the sole reason why I worked for Outward Bound, why I obsess over the show Survivor, and why I threw myself (and my two closest loved ones) on a trail for 5 months. When you take away comfort, familiarity, and societal norms, and throw yourself into a pool of strangers, you are bound to learn something. Outdoor adventure is a catalyst to finding that perfect high.

Kurt Hahn, the founder of Outward Bound, once said, “There is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less.”

On the Appalachian Trail, some people found that “perfect high” in the tranquility of its natural landscape. Some found it in the social community or physical challenge. And some found it in a joint. But for me, the perfect high came from the journey of it all.

Hiking in the woods for five months was hard. Traveling in a group was harder. Traveling with a camera and time constraints nearly broke us. But we all came out of it . . . better. Better at relationships, better at communication, better at understanding our own needs and wants, and most importantly, better at finding that perfect high we all strive for.

My name is Ringleader. I practice law, and watch Survivor, and listen to Lady Gaga. I like pushing boundaries, breaking stereotypes, and doing things that scare me. I dream big. I created this blog/documentary to spread love, knowledge, and inspiration onto others as my mentors have done for me. I’m high as a kite. This is only the beginning. Keep up with me.

I was born this way ….

My Success Story

Written by: Brandon "Monkey" Imp

Ringleader, Lightning, and I descended Springer Mountain one year ago; five months and two days later, Ringleader and I ascended Mt. Katahdin. So much time. Such an investment. For the adventure. For the accomplishment. For the documentary. Clear-cut goals. Utilizing every moment over those months to get closer to the end. Every moment mattered. Now, how much time will I waste over the next year-and-a-half kicking in my office doorstopper? It's trivial, and it's really not that important. But I wonder, how much time will I waste turning it over, pushing it, kicking it, moving it with my foot? Time will be wasted. My life is a little different now.

My first on-trail blog post was entitled "My Story." I laid the groundwork for the challenges in front of me: transitions. "Physically, I must get from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. In life, I must get from an academic-focused lifestyle to a career-oriented lifestyle." Guess what? I DID IT. Woah!

Physically, I got from Georgia to Maine over five months and two days - 3/10/10-8/12/10. My legs did the walking. And I did it as part of the kickin' team The Traveling Circus. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, who annually record the number of thru-hikers, recently published the 2010 statistics. 1,460 thru-hikers registered on Springer Mountain, but only 349 thru-hikers made it to Mt. Katahdin - 24%. Ringleader and I were 114 and 115.

In life, I got from the classrooms of Cornell University to the Moffitt-Long Hospital of the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center after fourteen months - 12/22/09-2/22/11. As far as I can tell, my case is fairly fortunate. I am the youngest employee in my immediate group, and possibly one of the youngest Clinical Research Coordinators at UCSF. Yesterday we celebrated my 23rd birthday; having been on the job for only two weeks, I am still the floating newcomer with a largely untold history. One coworker thought I was joking when I said it was my 23rd birthday. "You are SO YOUNG!" she said. "I thought you were joking at first." Nope, I am 23 years old, love my life, love my job, and going places.

So, I've made it. I have transitioned. I hiked the entire east coast. I flew across the country, settled into a new city with no job, no friends, no family, and little money. Over three months, I worked two jobs and an internship for 60+ hours per week and established myself with new friends and a new home. Finally, I sealed the deal with an incredible research position at UCSF. I DID IT. You are a rockstar, Monkey!

Today, one year from when The Traveling Circus set off from Springer Mountain, I feel pretty darn good. What's next? I registered today for the first step of medical school applications.

Oh, the places you'll go!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

20 lbs.

Written By: Katherine “Ringleader” Imp

The weight.

My alarm goes off. I get up and sleepwalk to the shower. I squeeze some face wash into my hand, and the smell reminds me of the travel size face wash I carried with me on the trail. The weight. I re-focus my attention to the day ahead of me. What depositions do I have this week? Did I keep track of my billing hours yesterday? I should bring my gym clothes to work. I step out of the shower and begin to get dressed. I notice the scars that have taken a permanent resting on my legs. The weight. I push aside the leftover boxes of Minute Rice and Backpacker’s Pantry in my kitchen cabinet and I grab a banana for the road. The weight. I walk to the bus. I get on the bus. I get off the bus and get on the El. I get off the El. I walk to work. I go up an escalator, two elevators, and a flight of stairs. I sit at my desk, physically present but mentally adrift. The weight.

I’ve had four of the best moments of my life this year: (1) the day I got a job, (2) the day I passed the bar exam, (3) the day I graduated law school, and (4) the day I summited Mt. Katahdin. But this year also included some of the worst moments of my life … and every single one of them happened on the trail. The weight.

Sometimes, when I’m on the bus, or at my desk, or even when I’m out with friends, my mind wanders to those moments. Those moments of physical exhaustion and mental strife. I remember the days that I was so tired I couldn’t find the energy to eat. I remember the days where every step sent a bolt of pain through my knees and broken toe. But worst of all, I remember the loneliness. I never knew what lonely was until I went on the trail. I remember taking breaks to cry. I’d put my pack down and I would just cry. For hours. Alone. On the side of a mountain.

And sometimes, when my mind wanders to these moments, I think … why? WHY. Why do we do this to ourselves? Every thru-hiker has been there, whether they admit those moments or not. And often times it is these moments that make people quit. Hell, it almost got me.

And then I force my mind into a better place and I remember. I remember Emily’s laugh in the tent at night. I remember Bran’s monkey noises over lunch. I remember the joy that one small can of orange soda could bring. So many thoughts come rushing to my mind while I stare at the inbox of my Outlook account or pay the bartender for a round of drinks at happy hour -- the smell of pine trees, the fresh spring water, the stars, the cows, the hitchhiking, the trail magic, the clouds MY GOD HOW ALIVE WE FELT and that’s why. That’s why we endured. That’s why the trail is magical. That’s why an experience like this stays with you forever.

It’s been four and a half months since I finished the trail and I feel the weight. And I’m not talking about the 20 lbs. that have made their way back to my stomach and thighs. I’m talking about the memories that both haunt me and bring me joy. And it is this weight that makes me feel closer to my thru-hiking community more than ever.

We were warned that the transition home from the trail can be hard. Some would argue that the return to civilization can sometimes invoke more loneliness than even the lowest of low moments on the trail. This happens because most of us return to a life that doesn’t involve people that can identify with what we’ve just endured. And because we go back to a life of buses, elevators, and Email accounts. But if this entry speaks to you then hear me when I say: it was worth it. Whether you’ve already thru-hiked the trail or you’re starting in 2011: it was worth it. And you’re not alone.

Cherish the good memories, and phase out the bad. Embrace the weight. And should you ever need a friend to talk to … the Traveling Circus is only an email away.

Monday, December 13, 2010

And That's All You Have to Show

Written by: Brandon "Monkey" Imp

This feels good. My fingers have minds of their own. They remember what to do. It's comforting.

Today marks four months since completing the Appalachian Trail. I only cried twice today; I call it progress. Crying is an odd concept - I am not sad or angry but satisfied and longing. My body is once again coated with a thin layer of healthy fat. Those "children strapped to the back of my legs" (as some NJ friends liked to call my calves) have regressed to mere toddlers. My face is not hollow and my feet are unmarked. The last of my hiking scars have faded. I want it all back. My body has become complacent yet my awareness of potential makes me feel on-edge. Why am I sitting in a pile of dirty laundry? I would rather be wearing them on the AT.

Four months have passed. I could have southbounded in this time. What do I have to show for my time away from the trail? An overwhelming desire for stabilization yet perpetual movement and an unsettled lifestyle. I want the 9-5, where I laugh with my new friends and go to happy hour after work. I want to entertain guests with a dinner party then crash on my couch over white chocolate raspberry ice cream and an episode of Dexter. My weekends should be open to exploring my new city of San Francisco; I should sleep in on Saturdays to cure my hangover. Doesn't it sound great? I think so. I am still searching for it - the lucky break in a down economy. Employers do not care about a Cornell degree or an AT thru-hike under my belt - they blindly need two years of experience for their entry-level positions. Doing your best has not been enough for the 45+ jobs I have applied for.

I am still hiking. Not the Appalachian Trail, of course. One step at a time. Know the end goal, but do not yellow blaze your way ahead. Love the trail angels that give you rides and housing; lend a supporting hand to those hiking alongside; do not let the nay-sayers bring you down. A woman begged for money on the street to buy me a hot cup of tea on Thursday - she saw something in me, and that's pretty cool.

I live in San Francisco now, staying afloat. I work 60+ hours per week and have yet to attend happy hour. I sleep in my camping gear on my bedroom floor and maintain a diet of cereal, chocolate milk, and pasta. I don't have much time for myself, let alone the handful of friends I am trying to establish. This is hard. I am tired. But then I walk out my front door and look at the sky - the sun and the stars are still the same. I think I'll be all right. Besides, there is another big adventure brewing for us. Fingers crossed this will pan out...