Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Appalachian Trail: Unknown Territory Video Blog - part 11

The eleventh installment of the Unknown Territory Video Blog

Check back soon for a new installment and follow along with the adventures of a lawyer, an Ivy grad, and a city chick.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Trail Update #7

Hello friends, family, and followers!

First off, we want to thank all of you for following our journey on the Appalachian Trail. Keeping a blog on the Internet was a new experience for each of us. Your support gave us the motivation to keep it going! Thank you!

So…where do we go from here?

We initially planned to end the blog with our summit of Mt. Katahdin. In the last few months, however, we’ve met or been emailed by many thru-hikers that have mentioned how lonely and difficult the transition home can be. For this reason (as well as requests from followers), the Traveling Circus has decided to continue the blog for the time being. While not as frequent, we intend to post both written entries (about our transition) and video entries (from the trail) in hopes of providing insight and entertainment.

Other points of interest:

1. The Documentary

The Documentary will enter its post-production phase later this year. We still intend to have a completed product by Summer 2011. In many ways, the story will reflect this blog. This film is about our experience, and each of us tell a different tale (…with many surprises and confessions!) However, having a camera with us at all times also gave us the opportunity to provide our audience with a deeper connection to the ‘daily routine’: camp life, fellow thru-hikers, trail magic, and mountaintop views.

The Traveling Circus, with periodic help from co-producer/editor Jason Furrer, filmed over 200 hours of footage while also averaging over 20 miles a day on the trail. This was no easy feat, but we pushed through in hopes of creating something that could inspire people of all ages for years to come. With the help of One Way Street Productions and our editing team, we believe the film will do just that.

2. Listserv

For those of you interested in receiving updates about the progress of the documentary, please send us your email address at (or click here) so that we can add you to our listserv. The listserv will be emailed periodically with news re film festival submissions, scheduled viewings, etc.

3. Pictures

For those of you without a Facebook account, we apologize for not updating the picture page on our website! Monkey will be organizing the photos from the entire trip in the next few weeks. He plans to upload photo albums on our photo website for all to see. Our website will have slide shows of those albums as well.

For those of you with a Facebook account, our final albums of pictures have recently been added. Enjoy!

4. Separation of the Traveling Circus

There have been many assumptions made about the separation of the Traveling Circus, but alas, none of them will be addressed. In order for any one of us to speak “the truth,” we would have to invade the privacy of the other two --- something that none of us are willing to do. Hiking in a group (with 2 women & a guy / with 2 siblings & a friend / with 2 people that didn’t know each other & 1 that knew both / with a lawyer, an ivy grad, and a city chick) is something that has never been done. There was no book to follow, no one to seek advice from. Maybe it was a mistake, or maybe it was the best decision we ever made. What we do know is that we had some truly amazing experiences that will forever hold a place in our memories.

5. A Broad Thank You

Once again, thank you to everyone that helped the Traveling Circus get from Georgia to Maine. Thank you to every person that: (1) gave us a ride, (2) gave us a place to stay, (3) gave us food, (4) gave us a care package, (5) gave us advice, (6) gave us love and support, or most importantly, (7) made us smile and laugh. Our feet may have done the walking, but many times it was the support from people around us that kept us going. So, thank you!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Signs

Written by: Brandon "Monkey" Imp

There were many signs to indicate that our hike was coming to a close.

First, Ringleader broke her toe but continued hiking since we were "almost done." How she managed to hike the 250+ miles on a broken toe, while keeping up with Lightning, Snickers, and I, I cannot quite explain. Determination? Gritted teeth? Ibuprofen?

Later, Lightning separated from Ringleader and I. She chose to hike behind us and finished the trail on her own. With so little of the trail left, I suspect there was enough time to enjoy the solitary hike without feeling aftershock from group separation.

Finally, our gear began to fail. Within the last ten days of the trip, our shoes fell apart, the water filter virtually disintegrated, and the tent broke. Granted our shoes were near the end of their lifespan, Ringleader and I both noticed our shoes retained no tread and were useless on slippery rocks and roots. The water filter (grrr!!) met an awful end. The ceramic core (the part that purifies the water) looked uncharacteristically skinny one day when I was cleaning it; upon size inspection, it fell way below the "safe" standards. With only a few days left, we decided the cost of a new ceramic core was not worth the hassle - we would pump and push the water through this core until it could take the force no more! Then, that day, I lost the Brillo to clean the ceramic core. The core must be scrubbed frequently or else the water will not pump through - I resorted to using my fingernails for the remainder of the trip. The tent took its last straw in a hurricane of a thunderstorm - the tent began to leak and the zipper began unzipping. Every night we could zip less and less of the tent. One night, the entire bottom did not zip, so we barricaded ourselves inside with shoes and gear. Still, in the morning we found a large brown spider hiding in the tent and Ringleader suffered a large bite to the leg. On our final night at the Birches, we opted to sleep in the shelter because the tent did not zip at all. It was as if our gear was saying, "We know you are done, so leave us alone!!"

Although we experienced all of these signs (and believe me, we noticed them), there was only one I was looking for - the large wooden sign on Mt. Katahdin's Baxter Peak. Every other sign could only give a false hope that we were done. That one was the real deal.

We spent a few hours up on the peak. On the climb up and while lounging around the peak, I was waiting, and hoping, for a wave of emotions to hit me. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream! I wanted to feel euphoric! All I felt was a chill. It ran up and down my spine for hours. You are done. You thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. You are done. What, please tell me, WHAT were you thinking? What are you thinking? Where are you going? - Down the mountain. That's where I am going. The minivan is what I am thinking of. The wild roller coaster is what I thought about.

And it was good. Thanks Ringleader and Lightning. I could not have done it without you! And to our parents, family, friends, thru-hikers, new acquaintances, and you all out in cyber space - you rock!

Oh, and my fifth Katahdin 5 was...making a Survivor application video. A kickin' one at that. Thank you for the suggestions - I still payed a tribute to Sunny and even gave a wave to you, Young One!

Until next time...

Monday, August 16, 2010

I'm a Thru-hiker!

Written By: Emily “Lightning” Ginger

I’m in disbelief when I hear myself say, “I walked over 2,000 miles.” I’m beyond grateful that I was privileged enough to even attempt, let alone accomplish this unique experience of hiking across the United States along the Appalachian Trail. I’ve learned on many levels, more than I thought I could, about our country, others, and myself. I humbly hold this remarkable experience that will resonate throughout my lifetime.

There were many ups, and there were a number of downs. What’s life without both? But I never wanted to quit because of the hard terrain or the brutal weather -- those aspects weren’t cumbersome, but integral to the adventure. I have no regrets and there are few things that I might have changed. I’m appreciative of all the memories (good and bad) that I now take with me. Congratulations Kate and Brandon, we did it! Thank you Kate for inviting me to join you on this adventure. This trip rejuvenated my love for the outdoors and I look forward, with greater confidence than before, to the many challenges and adventures that lay ahead of me.

I am happy to announce that I completed the hike, and was accompanied by both my parents on the summit of Mt. Katahdin, 30 years after they hiked that same mountain. My father is in great shape and I had no doubts that he could climb the mountain. I can’t say the same for my mother because she has been inactive for five weeks since having toe surgery, but she wanted to tag along for as long as she could. After about a mile of trying to keep up with my dad and me, my mom felt tired and ill, so she stopped and decided to head back to the car. My dad and I, at her request, continued our ascent (on all fours) up the rocky mountain, leaving her with two cereal bars and a quart of water. We reached the top of the mountain and celebrated with the other thru-hikers who were culminated on the summit that day as well. After two hours of enjoying the views from atop the mountain, and just as we agreed to wrap it up to start back down the mountain, a man walked over and said, “Did you just complete your thru-hike?” I replied “yes.” He extended his hand for me to shake and as I shook his hand he said, “Congratulations! Your mother is just behind me and on her way up the mountain.” My dad and I, in SHOCK thought he was mistaking me for someone else, but we looked down the trail and there she was, making her way toward us! She told me that she didn’t want to miss out on the celebration, that she wanted to prove to herself that she could do it, and was able to do so by “hiking her own hike,” at her own pace. It was special to have my parents join me in the ending of this long journey.

Thank you to everyone who has lent me support throughout these past five months. Your kind and supportive comments on this blog truly kept me going. To those who sent food packages, they nourished me physically, but the love they came with was true sustenance:) I couldn’t have done this without everyone following along and cheering me on! I would like to give a special thanks to my family especially Mom, Dad, Jake, Elaine, Luke, Christie, Grammy, Grandpa, Aunt Clare, Uncle Mark, Uncle Andy, Aunt JoAnn, Jeff, Kristin, Aunt Amy, Uncle Lenny, and Anya!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Summiting Mt. Katahdin

Written by: Katherine 'Ringleader' Imp

"We got this, B! We got this! Katahdin!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

There are 9 miles between the AT's entry into Baxter State Park and The Birches (a campground for northbound thru-hikers at the bottom of Mt. Katahdin). I don't remember any of those miles. As soon as we set foot in the park, we saw Mt. Katahdin in the distance, and the emotions came flooding in. We made it. We did it. We are summiting Mt. Katahdin.

After spending a few hours next to a waterfall, Brandon and I put our packs on and ran to The Birches. Everything hurt, but it didn't matter. Katahdin!!! Katahdin!!! We got this!!! Katahdin!!!! We laughed, we cried, we ran. It was one of the best days of my life.


The next day, August 12th, Brandon and I summited Mt. Katahdin.

We began the hike with our parents, who drove all the way up from New Jersey to root us on. About 2 miles in, we left them to sprint up the mountain. The climb up Katahdin is only 5 miles, but it involves some serious rock climbing. It was hard to get back into that meditative hiking rhythm we had so enjoyed during the 100-mile wilderness leading up to Katahdin. There was just too much going on -- parents, boulders, and a mind-blowing number of tourists. It made us anxious. This is our day!

As we neared the summit, I tried to bring back the emotions from the day before but I felt nothing. I was tired, hungry, and annoyed with all the 'background' noise. When we got to the top, we pushed our way through 40 tourists ... and touched the sign together. Before we could finish our sighs of relief, the questions came: You came all the way from Georgia? How long did it take? How many miles do you do each day? What do you eat? What was your favorite part?

Normally I love answering these questions, but not on the summit. This is my day. Bran and I fled to a corner of the mountaintop, away from all the people and sat down. We didn't speak for a few minutes. We just sat and looked at the view. Then we looked at each other and smiled. We did it.


After we ate lunch, we went back over to the sign and began our festivities. We took pictures by the sign, we popped open champagne bottles, and we gave our congrats to fellow thru-hikers. And then we saw them.

Our parents.

I was in shock, I was in awe. This is no easy hike, and my 60-year-old, 110-lb mother was standing on top of Mt. Katahdin. Seeing her on top of that mountain, grinning from ear-to-ear, was again, one of the most memorable moments of my life. That's my mom.


After a brief celebration, and a few swigs of champagne, our parents began their descent down the mountain, and Brandon and I went back over to the sign. The crowds had begun to disperse, so the mountaintop was ours for the taking.

I looked out into the distance and recited my favorite poem, "The Road Not Taken," by Robert Frost. Then I sat down on a rock and listened to Brandon recite, "Oh, The Places You'll Go," by Dr. Seuss. It was so well done. I felt my emotions coming back to me. What an amazing person to share this experience with. When he finished I clapped and gave him a hug. We did it. Katahdin.

After Brandon completed his Katahdin 5, it was time for me to have my last experience on the summit. I grabbed my brother's ipod and found my song from Lady Gaga. Just Dance. I sent my ipod home 3 months ago, but for the first 2 months it was Lady Gaga that got me up those mountains. Now it was time to pay tribute. I turned up the sound, closed my eyes, and ... just ... danced. I was free. I was alive. I was happy. Katahdin.


As Bran and I scrambled down our last mountain together, we realized that a new problem was on the horizon. It was 7:15pm, our parents were no where near the bottom of the mountain, and our headlamps were in the van.

We got to the van around 8:30pm, threw our stuff in the back seat, grabbed the headlamps, and then began our sprint back up the mountain. There was no time to think about the fact that we were done with our thru-hike. We had to rescue our parents.

We charged back up the mountain, screaming for them, but heard nothing. When we finally found them, they were huddled together, wrapped in a garbage bag for warmth. It was one of the most hilarious things I've ever seen. Brandon and I tried to be sympathetic but they were laughing so we started laughing right along with them.

The hike back down was long but memorable. Bran and I told stories about our thru-hike to make the time go by. Every so often we'd look up at the stars.

We made it to the car by 11:30pm, safe and sound. When we got there, Bran and I looked at each other, smiled, and touched the car simultaneously. We made it. We summited Mt. Katahdin.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Welcome to Monson!

Written by: Katherine 'Ringleader' Imp

The Appalachian Trail passes through numerous towns as it makes it way from Georgia to Maine. Most of them are small and outside of tourist America, but each town has its own unique appeal. When Bran and I set foot in Monson, Maine, our last trail town, we weren't expecting anything special. So long as we could sleep somewhere, we would be content. Little did we know it would be our favorite town on the entire Appalachian Trail....

Monson is a one-street town (literally) a few miles east of the AT. The town is bordered by a lake which you can see from almost any point in town. The town consists of a General Store, a post office, a gas station, the Lakeshore House, and a handful of antique stores. That's it.

The General Store sells one of everything -- hardware, food, antiques, candy -- you name it, they will have at least one in store. After stopping by to grab a quick snack, we walked over to the Lakeshore House.

"Hi there! How are you guys? What can we help you with!?" says a woman in front of the house. "We have rooms, food, beer, showers, a laundry mat..."

"We'll take one of each!" we said.

We ran up the stairs to our room, and before we could finish throwing our stuff down on the bed, the owner introduced herself: "Hi there! I'm Rebekah, and I know you hikers like deals so I have a proposition for you. Tonight is fish fry night and I need some more lemons. Any chance you two want to go for a road trip?"

Before she could even finish explaining the proposition, Brandon and I were in the car, cruisin' to the "big" grocery store 15 miles away. When we returned, Rebekah thanked us graciously and then comped us 2 beers and a free dinner.

While we were eating dinner at the Lakeshore Restaurant, we heard some locals talking about live bluegrass music at the General Store. Not sure how musicians would fit into the General Store, I decided to check it out.

I opened the door to the store and was overwhelmed. 15 musicians, with all kinds of instruments, were crammed into the aisles of the general store surrounded by 50 some bystanders. Everyone was singing and smiling and joyous. I stayed the entire night. I introduced myself to the musicians and thanked them for playing. Turns out the General Store has had live bluegrass music every Friday night for the last 12 years. Farmers, lawyers, engineers, and business owners come together to play music and sing. It was like being in New Orleans, small-town America style. It was fabulous.

What a great way to enter the 100-mile wilderness. Thanks Monson!

Things I Tell Myself

Written by: Brandon "Monkey" Imp

Two months ago I had a theory that went a little like this: The last two weeks of the hike will be an emotional roller coaster because we can see the end. Every day will be a new experience and filled with excitement. Therefore, the last two weeks will fly by. This means that we only have one and a half months left instead of two!

I held to that theory for a very long time - when the hike was rough, I would think of how little time I had left. I knew to cherish the moment and knew the trip would be over soon if I could just hold out.

Now, we have six days left. SIX DAYS!! The theory no longer stands strong since I am currently in that mysterious two week roller coaster. So far, I am doing fairly well. When I wake up in the morning and think of the number of days left, I get butterflies in my stomach. It's like I am climbing up that tall drop on the old wooden roller coasters - I am filled with excited, nervous energy. That AHHHH moment right before you ride down the hill will definitely be felt on top of Mt. Katahdin. If there is ever a point of the day I do not enjoy (ex. flying insects, tuna lunch, putting on wet clothes), I just say out loud "XXX days!" Believe me, it works.

The typical thoughts running through my head have surprisingly gone unchanged. I often think of Survivor (any of the twenty seasons), Ellen, my dog Sunny, and friends. Yesterday, I played Essence with myself for a few hours. To play Essence, you choose a friend and others ask you questions like, "If you were a fruit, what would you be?" After answering many questions like that, the others guess who you "are." Since I played by myself, I just labeled all of my friends with movies. Kate = Moulin Rouge. Dusi = Forrest Gump. Cindy = Singing in the Rain. After a few hours of contemplation, I finally came to myself. What movie would I be? It must be young, lively, adventurous, include laughs, and be more city-oriented. The answer was clear to me: Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

One and done. I will thru-hike the Appalachian Trail this year and never do it again. I applaud anyone who completes this challenge more than once (but simultaneously question their sanity.) One and done.

I like to know where I am and what lies ahead of me at every point in the day. Ringleader carries the Thru-Hiker Companion, a book that lists landmarks, mileage, and elevation, so I try to memorize what will be happening over the course of the day. Yesterday went like this: 2.3 miles to the river which I must ford, .4 miles to a road and we go up 200 feet, 3 miles to a blue blaze trail, then 3.3 miles to the highway to get to Monson...the elevation change is small but there may be hills that are not labeled. As I get to these various landmarks, I check them off the list in my head and feel accomplished.

I want to eat funnel cake and drink an icee. When I get home, I am making a strawberry daquiri.

I often get songs stuck in my head, most of which I prefer not to be in there. The songs traditionally come about because they are on my iPod (so I had it coming); however, even though I have hundreds of songs and artists to choose from, its the musicals that always get stuck. I only have two on my iPod, Chicago and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Sometimes I let the songs repeat. Once I get fed up, I go to my default "song get-ridder." I swear it works. "There aint no bugs on me, there aint no bugs on me. There may be bugs on some of your mugs, but there aint no bugs on me!" Ah, peace and quiet up there.

Six days!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Flying Solo

Written By: Emily "Lightning" Ginger

After journeying for so long with the Traveling Circus, the time has come for me to peel away from the group and finish the hike by myself. I am finally "hiking my own hike," and moving forward on my own. I look forward to what the next 10 days have in store for me. It feels good to be independent again! Mt. Khatadin here I come... Mom and Dad, I'm making my way towards Baxter and I'll see you there!

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Lists

Written by: Brandon "Monkey" Imp

We are less than two weeks away from Katahdin, and our negative-NH mentality has been completely flipped upside down. We are happy, healthy, and looking forward to re-entering society. While hiking, I got to thinking about the best way to prepare myself for society. What do I do in society that I do not do on the Appalachian Trail? Well, a lot. A whole lot. But to keep it simple, lists. I love lists. I love being organized, whether the organization is in my head, on a bookshelf, or written on a piece of paper.

The first list I made in my head was based on my surroundings - easy and convenient. What has the Maine terrain offered that we have seen infrequently on the trail?
1. Wind. Above treeline in Maine, we are practically blown over! I was filmed being held up by the wind while wearing my pack - that's how strong the wind is up there.
2. The bouldering of Mahoosuc Notch. This notch (aka a valley) is one mile long on the AT and filled with boulders and ice caves. We have climbed over rocks before, but this was straight-up bouldering with a full pack. The one mile stretch took us two hours to get through - tough but fun!

3. Lakes and ponds. They are everywhere and I love it! Mountain-top views are no longer shrouded by other mountains - you can see bodies of water for miles around. I thought the Finger Lakes were pretty neat, but Maine has one-upped upstate New York.

I began making more and more lists. Most of them were trivial (favorite actors, best musical numbers, listing the 50 states) but some were constructive. One of them is the Katahdin 5 - the five things I want to do on the summit. Crying on top of, punching, and hugging the sign were givens, so they are not included.

1. Champagne.
2. Photo shoot the 8 rasa.
3. Recite "Oh The Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Seuss.
4. Shave a new mohawk.
5. ????

Number 5 has not been established yet, so I am open to suggestions. I was considering "Watch other thru-hikers reach the summit," but 1. we might be the last of the day and 2. that is creepy.

The other four have to be worked on, but they are solidified.
1. Champagne - is it legal to have alcohol in Baxter State Park? I must look into this.
2. The photo shoot - Adbuhta, Sringara, Bhayanaka, Bibhatsa, Vira, Hasya, Karuna, Raudra - eight Sanskrit words that I learned in a theatre technique called RasaBoxes. They are kind of the "flavor" of emotions, so I plan on having a photo taken of each one on Katahdin. Later in life, no matter the mood I feel, I will have a photo to suit me.
3. Dr. Seuss - I began memorizing it in VA and haven't done much since. Must finish it and recite it!
4. Mohawk - because I love it.

Lists lists lists! Society, I'm coming back!


Written by: Katherine 'Ringleader' Imp

Our journey to Maine has been anything but perfect. There have been extreme highs and extreme lows, some moments I wish I could relive, and others I wish I could forget. But I'm not sure I would've done it any other way. I've said this before, and I'll say it again: people have all different reasons for doing a thru-hike. For me, it was not about 'leaving' society, or finding myself, or being alone, or accomplishing a physical challenge. I love society, I know who I am and what I want to do with my life, I like being around people, and I've never really had a passion for proving myself athletically. I came out here because I wanted to be shocked. I wanted something different. I wanted an experience that would help me see the world, and myself, in a new and totallydifferent way.

The first 2 months of this trip were probably some of the worst moments of my life. My body hated me and I hated my body. I was looking for external satisfaction from the thru-hiker community, from Emily and Brandon, from the trail -- and I wasn't finding it. I wanted to leave and work at a B&B in the Greek Islands.

But I stayed.

I stayed because I wanted to understand why so many people rave about thru-hiking. And I knew that I would never understand the power of a thru-hike unless I stuck it out to the end.

Maine. We are in Maine. We are 15 miles from the 2,000-mile marker. We are 10 days away from summiting Mt. Katahdin. I am 13 days away from moving to my favorite city in the world. I am 14 days away from starting my career as a lawyer. I am 25-yrs-old.

These days the trip is purely introspective for me. I don't need trail magic or music or social interaction or motels or ice cream to keep me going. I don't even need a mountaintop view. I just feel high on life all the time. I feel accomplished. I feel satisfied. I am at peace.

I now understand the power of a thru-hike.