For years I have been bugging my wife for a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. YEARS! I drove her insane! It got so bad that in the car as a family (well minus the wife of course) me and the girls played JEEP!!! Instead of "punchbuggy" or "slugbug" we played JEEP!!! JEEP is a far superior game to those other silly Volkswagen games. My girls know the difference between a hardtop, softtop Jeep and know you get extra points for calling out a "naked jeep" (thats one with the top down in the summer - for you non-jeepers). My girls also know the ultimate score is the infamous and elusive "ultra naked jeep" (top down and no doors) that is cause for major points! The girls even know to grunt like Tim the "Tool Man" Taylor when we see a "Beefy" Rubicon with big beefy tires. Hrggggg hrghhh hrhggg hrggg hrgggg!
Finally in January, the long wait was over, the dream became a reality and our new adventure vehicle came home with us. We are now the new and proud owners of a Mango Tango Jeep Unlimited Sahara. The wife can't do much wrong for a while. I wasn't sure who was more excited me or the girls when we got the Jeep. They would sigh when the wife would pick them up or take them to school in her car. They didn't want to be seen in her ride any more they wanted the Jeep. I have taken over chauffeur duties at their request.
The past months have been great getting used to the Jeep. I even took "George" (will explain the name in second) on his first adventure in February on my first camping trip of the year. George or better yet Mr. "A" (Anderson) was my Scoutmaster growing up. I figured he took us all over and everywhere on all sorts of adventures as young scouts. Had it not been for Mr. A, I would have never reached my goal of becoming an Eagle Scout or been the outdoor nut I am today. And so knowing that this Jeep can take me anywhere we dubbed it George, after all the Jeep slogan is "Go Anywhere".
Even the girls call the Jeep by George now. "Daddy, George needs a wash he is dirty". "Daddy are we taking George to school today...Rightttt". Ahh it warms my heart. However, something has happened recently, that even I didn't know about owning a Jeep and I thought I had researched everything about the vehicle. If you remember I was slightly obsessed. Only slightly. :)
While driving around about a month back the wife asked what I was doing. "Who was that you waved at"? she asked. My response, "my brother". Perplexed, because my brother lives 1200 miles away. She needed an explanation. I had to explain the "Jeep Wave" (Urban Dictionary defines as: When two jeep wranglers pass each other on opposite sides of the road, one of the drivers initiates the wave and the other waves back symbolism some sort of bondage between jeep owners.)
I gotta tell yeah I love this. Especially on those days when stuff isn't going right, or your in a hurry and all of a sudden you look down the road and see another Jeep coming towards you, and then they wave and you wave back. Its an awesome feeling of knowing that there are other like-minded adventure seekers (brothers and sisters) out there just like you. The wife thought that this was some freak occurrence and that the other Jeep owner was only waving because I waved and they were being polite, so she made me wait... they still waved! HA!
So to all you fellow like-minded, Jeep owning brothers and sister adventure seekers out there... I'm waving at yeah!
Keep Hiking & Waving Forward
So recently I was asked why is your blog entitled "Hiking Forward"? Why not hikerjunkie or adventure dude or hiking maniac? (my apologies if any of these are your Twitter handles or actual blog title).
I have spent a few days pondering this idea and question as well as trying to organize my thoughts so that it could be understood. First, some background like most people I too have faced many changes some good and some not so good in my life. I have seen the loss of many people very close to me, namely my dad who passed five years ago unexpectedly. These moments in life remind me of the ebb and flow while hiking.
I see life as a trail, some days its grey, dark and full of fog and others you find a pile of trail magic and a wonderfully magically mountain vista that lifts your spirits and gives you a reason to live on and take another step. Life can can be lived or you can sit and watch other people live it.
"Get busy living, or get busy dying" Andy DuFresene - Shawshank Redemption
In life we all see adversity, tragedy, pain, love and joy. How we all deal with it is what matters. I have chosen to get busy living and not get busy dying. One of my favorite movies of all time Shawshank Redemption, reminds me that no matter how dark and horrible things can be tomorrow is another day and can it can be truly amazing. The sight of Andy smiling while working on his boat on the beach of the Pacific while his friend Red walks up the beach to greet him after his long journey... gets me every time.
Crawling up into a ball after the bad doesn't make you feel better, doesn't solve your problems, but living and living big will fill you with the medicine your body, soul and heart need. Sharing your love of something so pure and simple like being outdoors with the ones you love and the one's you haven''t met who are like-minded is an amazing thing. My father was a priest in the Armenian church, each Sunday he would get up and offer up a sermon and encourage his parish to follow a certain path and to be good to one another. I am not a priest, hardly! But I want to follow a path, and I want to encourage others to take up their own path of rock or dirt to find that inner peace, experience the external beautiful and friendly camaraderie with their fellow hiker.
Hiking Forward is about living, not about hiking everyday, but staying on your own path of life so that you can take advantage of the days when you do get to experience the dirt, rock, water, clean air and good friends.
Keep Hiking Forward
Finally got the opportunity to take the whole family up Monadnock on our summer vacation. The mountain I love and where I proposed to my bride on is now apart of our family memories. So proud of our girls and family for making it up and down. Grace and Gabby are great little mountain climbers. If are in New Hampshire you have to check this mountain out.
Ok, so with a new backpacking trip on the horizon I thought about using my new hammock. I also thought that I wanted to stay warm and dry. So a couple weeks back I took full advantage of my REI dividend and their members only 20% off sale and bought my new ENO Pro Rain Fly. The reviews on the large majority of ENO's stuff is always awesome and so is true for this fly. I haven't used it yet, but as soon I put her through the paces I will surely double back for a full review.
And then there is my new vintage Coleman stove circa 1976... that has never been used! She is a beauty, I almost don't want to cook on her. But given our recent move from the trailer to real camping I knew we were going to need a good stove. But, I didn't want a new Coleman stove, I wanted something vintage that reminded me of making sausage or eggs when I was a Boy Scout.
Where did I find her you ask? Well I looked for months on Ebay and Craiglist and most were very over priced for their "loved" condition. I follow and use a website often called www.shopgoodwill.com. Yes, its Goodwill online. They take all their good stuff and put it in an auction like setting similar to Ebay, but the money goes to a good cause. Check it out.
I got the stove with the original box and papers (instructions and warranty from 1976) for $29.00 plus shipping! It's the find of the century. I can't wait to use this and know that one day she will most likely get passed down to the kids and grand kids. My next project is to build a chuckbox or patrol box to store the store and to use as a prep, cooking and pantry while camping. I needed to wait till I found the stove so I had the proper dimensions. Stay tuned for progress and pics of our new chuckbox.
Keep Hiking Forward.
Last weekend, we sold our beloved travel trailer. I will clean her out and up for the new proud owners this weekend and send her on her way next week to enjoy many more years of adventures. Growing up a Boy Scout I loved the outdoors and today could spend everyday among the trees. We bought the camper years ago to provide our young family with and outlet and a mechanism to enjoy the outdoors. And, I am happy to report, she did her job. Even though we didn't use her all the time, our family style has lead us now to three National Parks and one of them twice.
So, this week I feel as though we are transitioning and for me back to my roots. Back into a tent, cooking off the fire, and enjoying the stars not the A/C. The one downside for me always with the trailer was it took so long to set up and put up while on site that I lost time I could have been using to Kayak, Fish or Hike. No longer, minutes to set up our new tent (which will arrive today) and the rest of camp and then right to enjoying the reason we are outside.
While my girls are lovers of the outdoors like I am, I hope they fully embrace nature and the joy of this new way of being outdoors with us. My wife, is somewhat apprehensive but I know that years of comfort and the allotment of equipment we have accumulated of the years will provide similar comfort for all.
While I knew this day would come, I have been searching for the right tent for our family and finally pulled the trigger last weekend once I had sold the trailer.
Today, we will be the proud owners of an REI Kingdom 8 Tent and REI Tech Garage. This two room tent is highly reviewed and provides enough space and comfort for the four of us plus our dog Sid. The Tech Garage will provide a great vestibule for gear, equipment or someplace to sit if the weather turns nasty.
I look forward to writing a full review once we have fully tested the tent and Tech Garage, stay tuned for that and pics!
Keep Hiking Forward.
I finally called into the show and my voicemail got played and discussed. Do you dream or get ubber super spectacularly jealous of thru-hikers this time of year? Discuss!
Click the Pox and Puss pic to listen to this weeks show.
Keep Hiking Forward.
I have been chewing on this for quite some time and wonder if I am the only one that feels the same way. Let me preface this post and commentary, I mean no harm nor do I mean to offend a soul. I am a person who respects people, their race, creed and beliefs. Quite frankly this ability I have to do this is what ironically has driven me to this new spiritual epiphany.
Recently, on Twitter I've been lightheartedly joking around with a hash tag of #naturechurch. What do I mean? Some of you may be avid churchgoers, some maybe holiday churchgoers some may be agnostic to organized religion. What I have found recently is that there is something more powerful and alive in me and in my surroundings when I’m engrossed in nature and with people who are truly appreciative of the awesome surroundings we share.
To me this spiritual fulfillment is far greater then anything I have ever felt in an organized religious activity or ceremony. You may think that I must have never had a good religious education or base as a child right?
Well, to contrary. I was raised in an Italian and very Catholic family and then was introduced to the Christianity of the Eastern Orthodox Church in my later years. My late dad was an ordained priest. So as you can imagine I saw organized religion up close. What I am beginning to find is nature is pure. Nature may be sometime unforgiving, but it always provides immense peace and tranquility that offers you the spiritual fuel exactly when you need it.
I have found that every person I come across who is equally like-minded about nature, being outdoors, understanding the importance of this wonderful resource and that we must protect it are all truly sound, centered and giving individuals. More importantly, I find that these folks live by a certain set of principles and an unwritten code for lack of a better term. What I have found over time is that religious people due to where modern day religion has gone pick and choose which items to follow. Others who subscribe to organized religion choose either consciously or sub-consciously to disavow the teaching of their church and condemn those that may not subscribe. This in no uncertain terms disgusts me.
To the contrary I look at the trail environment how organic families of people come together day by day, people from all walks of life with different beliefs, how they share food, communal space, and of themselves. I often wonder why that doesn't happen with people who actually or supposedly believe the same things. I find myself wondering day by day, more and more can nature and all that exists in its glory be our religion, our calling or our destiny?
I would think that if there was some sort of glorious being among us it would want us to feel at peace, feel like we belong and treat one another the way he/she/it would treat us. Tell me that place isn't in nature, with your like-minded friends or pure strangers who you only know as “Stinky”, “Wolf” or “Puss”.
Some may say well God created nature for you and you should praise him. (Can you tell I have had this conversation with people before?) Whoever created nature, the trails, the mountains and the mountain streams, I am forever indebted. We all have a choice on how we spend our days. I chose to immerse myself in nature and feed my spirituality with those like-minded souls who have nothing but love in their hearts for their fellow hiker and the magnificent beauty surrounding us.
Keep Hiking Forward
Sometimes you just need a little fresh air, a long hike in the snow and like minded easy going friends to put you in that right frame of mind. I am feeling really good this morning. Every year I say I am going to put my money where my mouth is and commit to keeping my outdoor themed resolution. And this year I am actually doing it and feeling amazing as a result. Not only am I keeping my resolution but I am also including Grace (my oldest) and this past weekend my bride. It truly feels great to share that one thing you love and cherish with the people you love and cherish.
Even though it was only one night away, it was what the doctor ordered. Getting in 4-5 mile hike in the deep snow up high on the Illinois River Bluff Trail was not only beautiful and serene and but rejuiced the batteries. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy the hike but the wife wanted to keep going!
My quest to be outside hiking, camping and exploring as much as possible is coming true and I couldn't be happier. I am also currently in the process of setting up the logistics for a mid-Spring AT section hike. More to come on that topic soon.
Keep Hiking Forward
I participated in my hiking groups annual "Freeze Your Butt Off" camping trip this past weekend at Kickapoo State Park and had a great time. Once again it always amazing me how the right preparations and gear can keep your warm in almost any conditions.
While en route to the campground the location was still under a winter weather advisory due to low wind chills from arctic air pushing through the area. Upon arrival my fellow campers had already started a fire, erected our dining area and their personal accommodations.
The only time I was remotely cold was when I was putting up my own tent. After my tent was up and camp was set my gear, the fire, warm food and my sleeping bag did the job for the remainder of the weekend.
The local news station came out and did a story on the crazy campers out in the woods in the dead of winter and did a little feel good piece on us. Check it out below.
As many of you know getting out into the woods and or nature, energizes your soul. For me it re-juices my batteries. And today I feel really good. I got to spend the weekend with like minded people who love the outdoors as much as I do. We of course, tried to solve the worlds problems around the campfire. And I think had we had another day we might have just done it.
I was able to try out my new ENO Hammock as you can see from the video and the pics linked below. Initial results are I love it and so do all my camping mates. I envision the first spring campout we all might be sleeping or swinging in hammocks. I will write up and post a more detailed gear review on it in the coming days.
Freeze Your Butt Off Pictures
As many friends and family members either in person or via social media exclaimed to me last week prior to my trip "Your Nuts"... yes maybe so. But, we all have one life to live and we all have some place that makes us feel good and right. Mine just happens to be in the woods with good people. So to those who are like me I say again...
Keep Hiking Forward.
After today's #hikerchat (which by the way if you haven't done yet is a blast! takes place on Fridays at noon eastern) I asked out there on Twitter if anyone knew how to fix a problem with my Leki Khumbu Aergon Trekking Poles. You see the button leg under the Speedlocks kept collapsing even under very little pressure. I have tightened both the clear lock and the Speedlock as much as it can be tightened and still the pole collapses at will. Most of the time it collapses like I said under just walking conditions and others under pressure conditions. (this is not helpful)
Well upon sending out the call for assistance I tagged Leki's USA Twitter account and wouldn't you know within a few minutes they suggested an email to their service email.
I emailed promptly, and got a detailed response within minutes! I was informed that the company would be sending me two new legs both and upper and a lower and the Speedlock components. I was delighted with the great customer service and the speed in which they responded. I am also happy to know I can depend on my poles again.
So this weeks PROPS! go to LEKI USA!
The weeks wag of the finger goes to FEDEX! Yes, FedEx. Typically I adore getting packages. I work from home so the UPS, USPS and Fedex folks break up my day. I'm not sure if I am the only one that does this or not but when you order gear online, do you wait impatiently for the tracking number then knowing full well that the package won't arrive for 4 days still check the tracking page to see where it is? No? Damn I am sick!
Anywho, due to the generosity of my loving family and wonderful bride I received a host of REI gift cards for Christmas. I spent much of Christmas break researching new packs. I finally settled on the pack I wanted to only find out it was on back order! Ugh! Right? Finally last week I ordered the pack and as you already know, I watched as the pack made its way from the REI distribution center to my house tomorrow (Saturday) via the online tracking system. Or, so I thought. With the anticipation of playing with and packing my new REI Crestrail 70 building I checked it one last time this afternoon in wonder, "hmmm where might it be now?" ... ESTIMATED SCHEDULED ARRIVAL WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 23, 2013!?!?!?!?!?! UGH!
So we wait. Will post when the bag finally arrives. Fingers crossed on Wednesday and stay tuned for a full review of the bag.
Have a great holiday weekend all.
Keep Hiking Forward!
Hiking Forward Stickers