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!