Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sherpa's Christmas List 2009

It's that time of year again.. I actually dread it. Thanksgiving is a WAY better holiday because it is so anti commercialized. You get together with your family.. and eat. No pressure.. just love. But Christmas... Blech! Too much attention is paid to gift giving and all the like. Either way, I've gotta make a list. So.. here is what is on my Christmas List this year. (Note: Lots of Mountain Hardwear I know... but hey, I know what's best!)

Mountain Hardwear Torsion Gloves: Medium

or spring ski tours, cruising to the coffee shop, or shoveling out the truck on a powder day, the Mountain Hardwear Torsion Glove is a perfect fit. This highly weather resistant softshell glove features stretchy Deflection fabric with a Conduit laminate to shed snow, ice, and slush. The tough, durable goatskin palm and index finger grips your poles, shovel, or apr├Ęs beers, and the articulated fit, brushed tricot lining, and flatlock seams provide a comfortable fit. Perfect for the winter wanderer!

Mountain Hardwear Alcove Jacket: Medium Red

Like a tiny shelter in the midst of alpine terrain and harsh, open landscapes, the Alcove Jacket from Mountain Hardwear protects you from storms with waterproof, breathable Conduit laminate and synthetic insulation. Stay warm in environmentally friendly, 50% recycled PrimaLoft ECO insulation that extends into the one-hand adjustable ergo hood.

Mountain Hardwear Wicked Long Sleeve T: Medium in Blue or Green

The Mountain Hardwear Men's Wicked Long-Sleeve Tee has a comfortable relaxed fit and mind-blowing moisture wicking capability. A long-cut back makes sure nobody assumes you're here to fix the sink, and its flat-locked seams won't rub you the wrong way under a backpack's straps.

Mountain Hardwear EMS Microfleece Zip T: Medium Cypress (EMS ONLY!)
Highly versatile, the Mountain Hardwear Microfleece Zip T wicks moisture and dries quickly. Wear alone or as an insulating layer for high-cardio activities in cool weather. Features/Benefits: 100% Polartec Classic Micro polyester for warmth without weight Quarter-zip at the neck allows for greater ventilation so you don't overheat

Mountain Hardwear Ascent Stretch Gaiter: Medium

Keep snow and rocks out of your boots with these all-purpose Mountain Hardwear Ascent Stretch gaiters.
The upper and lower shells of gaiters are constructed from taslan and packcloth nylons for durability and wind and water resistance. 4-way stretch nylon soft-shell rear panels provide a form-fitting seal over your boots; plus, they're breathable
Low-profile VELCRO® brand front flap closes securely; top cuff cinches tight with nylon webbing adjustment. Replaceable and adjustable urethane boot straps ensure a secure fit underfoot.

Therma-Rest Compack Chair 20

The Compack Chair by Therm-A-Rest is a mere 6 oz., the luxury and convenience of a having a chair on anyfast and light backcountry excursion is finally justifiable. The lightest and mostcompact chair sleeve available under the Therm-a-Rest brand, the CompackChair is constructed with ultralight SilNylon fabric and aluminum poles tominimize weight, while packing small enough to go anywhere. Fully adjustable;fits any 20-inch-wide mattress.

Book: Technical Skills For Adventure Programming A Curriculum Guide (Available through www.humankinetics.com)

Technical Skills for Adventure Programming will guide you in becoming an effective adventure educator teaching beginning-level outdoor adventure skills. This book allows you to tap into the knowledge and expertise of skilled instructors who present a lesson plan progression for mastering 12 popular outdoor adventure activities.

Sugoi Men's Sub-Zero Tight: Medium

The name says it all, an ideal thermal tight boosted with warmth and water resistance to keep you dry during the coldest temperatures. I won't tell you where I have holes in my old tights but it 'aint pretty. Besides.. those lasted 5 years!

Family and Close Friends also know that Sarah and I have a gift registry through REI.Com and Bedbathandbeyond.com

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Cheers!

I parked my car this thanksgiving morning on the side of Route 102 in Derry, NH; strapped on my shoes and quickly made my way to the starting line. On my way there I found my brother-in-law Mike, "It's about damn time!" Yeah.. I was running late as usual, but I had a good excuse. I couldn't find a place on earth this morning that would give me cash back with a purchase. Not a gas station, not a Dunkins'..nothing. So.. I ran to the starting line without a bib, and chose to run as a bandit. This Thanksgiving Tradition, now in it's 5 year would not be halted.

I showed up wearing a long sleeve dress shirt, a tie with the Tazmanian Devil on it and wearing a pair of Vibram Five Fingers. Mike and I arrived at the starting line about 3 minutes before race time. Of course, the race started late. In 2004, when we first ran here and started our tradition, we stood in a mass of a few hundred people. This year we stood in file with over 1000. I felt bad.. Mike had spent $12 for a bib.. and I was running as a bandit. I sensed that he felt a bit annoyed.. oh well I suppose. As we stood in the mass of weekend warriors, it was hard not to feel the collective stares from those around us. Here I was in shirt and tie, and those "weird shoes." Please people.. get with the times.. the Five fingers are OLD NEWS at this point.

Another runner in a pair of the five fingers came over and shook my hand. I asked if he felt like a freak to which he replied how tired he is all ready of people pointing at hime and staring. Then I ran into my old highschool friend Jenn Saucier who is still looking great. I always love running into her whenever I run this race. It'd been a few years since we ran here, so it was nice to return, this our third running of The Greater Derry Track Clubs 5K Turkey Trot.

After playing the national anthem, we recieved the command to go. Mike had encouraged me to run ahead if I wanted. With no bib, dressed like a fool and running barefoot.. I didn't care either way. So I decided to stay back and run with him for a change. Why? Because I'm thankful that he, of all people, is my brother-in-law. Mike told me he'd like to break 23 minutes, I was wearing my Garmin so I had a beat on how we were doing. I had no idea how I was going to hold up finally running a race in these damn slippers.

So we take off down the road, nestled into a huge crowd of our not so closest friends and rubbing elbows with all of them. We finally weaved our way in and otu of the crowd to find ourself a comfortable pace and just enjoy the morning. It's been a few days since we've seen the sun around here.. I'm just glad it'd stopped drizzling. Temps in the upper 40's I was able to run in a pair of shorts at least. All along the route, people glared at my feet and commented on my tie. It was rather entertaining. At the 1 mile mark we saw a time of 8:04 on the clock, funny because my watch said 7:59. Hmmm.. We just kind of hung back a bit, ran a comfy pace and enjoyed some conversation.

As we made our way to the 2 mile mark, I looked at my watch and told Mike to kind of ease up a bit as we'll need to kick it in in about 5 minutes. A runner came up beside me and commented on the outfit then he asked me about the Vibrams. He asked if I ran in them regularly to which I responded, "This is my first race in them." The guy asked me if I ran long distances in them, I said, "I know people who run 50 and 100 milers in them... I'd like to maybe run 100 in them." his response was fun.. "Yeah..... right." He took off.

As we rounded the turn at 2, the course flattens out and some fast downhills come into the mix. We start to pick up the pace a bit and we see the last uphill up ahead. I attack the hill well and keep running on my toes. I'm comfy, my feet feel great and I'm having no issues. I look down at my watch and tell Mike, "5 minutes left Mike!" I kick it in a bit deeper, Mike tries to follow, then I notice him fall back. I slow off.. and take it in easily. As we reach the final stretch of the road, all flat to the finish, I slow down and wait for Mike to catch up. Side by side, he kicks in it a bit and we run it into the finish for a time of 24 minutes even. Once again... the Thanksgiving 5K tradition continues.
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Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I hope that none of you are reading this on Thanksgiving Day and are opting to spend more time with your families rather. As I sit and write this, I am inclined to think of the things that I am thankful for this year. There is indeed much to be thankful for. I am of course thankful for the support of my family and loved ones. Without them, there is limited motivation. I am very thankful for having the ability to do the many things I do. The use of my legs, to hear with my ears and see with my eyes. I am most thankful for still being on this earth, especially as these trying times continue to plague my mind and heart.

But of all the things I am most thankful for this holiday, it is for friends. I'm not talking about acquaintences.. but real friends. Those that help hold me up in my darkest moments. Those who understand that perfection is merely a mirage. Those who will hold my hand and walk beside me, and if they cannot, they push me on from afar. Those friends who find a way to appreciate our friendship, and our time together. Those... that while our friendship may be strained from time to time, they still find it necessary to give a call, say hello and make sure everything is ok. Those friends, who allow me the opportunity to give back to them what they give to me. I have very few of these friends... some may not even know who they are. Either way.. I am most thankful for them and the opportunity to be in their lives. I miss my friends dearly.. and love them all.

I am also thankful to you, the readers of this blog for giving me the opportunity to provide you with something to read. I can only hope that we we move towards the future, we can all enjoy this journey together.

So that being said; Sarah, Nate, Josh, Loni, Steve, Will, Robby, Adam and Gilly... Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

PROJECT 2010

You run 100 miles at McNaughton Park 3 years in a row, you run 100 Miles in under 24 hours in Vermont 3 years in a row, you complete the toughest 100 in the East (Massanutten) Twice in a row and you run across the state of New Hampshire two years in a row... it's hard to not sit here and ask yourself... What now? Ultra-running has become rather complacent to me at times. Running the same races year in and year out. I love the sport, I love the life style.. but somethings gotta give. It's time for new adventures, it's time to re-test what I all ready know and see if I can change it back to merely "I thoughts." It's time for a new Project.. and that project is what I call:

PROJECT 2010
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Race #1: The Barkley Marathons








100 Miles - Frozen Head State Park Tennessee
Completed 1 Loop - 22 Miles in 12:36 (DNF)




Race #2: McNaughton In Vermont
100 Miles - Pittsfield, VT
Completed 60 Miles in 18:38 (DNF)
Read The Report

Race #3: The Western States Endurance Run
100.2 Miles - Squaw Valley, CA to Auburn, CA


Race #4: The Vermont 100
100 Miles - Woodstock, VT
28:58
Read The Report

Race #5: The Leadville Trail 100
"The Race Across The Sky"
61 Miles - DNF (Missed cutoff)
18:00
Read The Report

Race #6: The Wasatch Front 100
100 Miles - Layton, UT to Midway, UT
September 10-11, 2010


The Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run is held in Utah the first Friday and Saturday after Labor Day each year. The run stretches from Layton, Utah to The Homestead in Midway, Utah and covers some of the most beautiful scenery the Wasatch Mountains have to offer. There is a cumulative elevation gain of approximately 26,882 feet, as well as a cumulative loss of approximately 26,131 feet throughout the course. This is a premier run that will test the endurance of any runner.

It's NOT easy being a junior in college and trying to chase your dreams and goals. Running the Grand Slam is by no means cheap.. but I'm determined to find a way to get there. If you want to be a "sponsor" of this journey, please contact me via e-mail Sherpajohn@gmail.com and let me know how you can help. Frequent flier miles accepted! Lets do this together, lets discover Human Potential and enjoy the journey together.

SJ

Monday, November 16, 2009

Carrigain In Crocs

Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Mount Carrigain - 4,680'
Pemigewassett Wilderness, NH
Outdoor Education Community Event

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There is nothing worse then having an amazingly gorgeous day to hike, and when you've driven a half hour out from home you realize that you've forgotten your hiking boots or shoes. So as I glanced down at my feet while Gilly asked if I wanted to turn around, I smiled and quickly answered that hiking in my crocs would be just fine. A silly notion for sure, but thats how it was about to play out either way.

Upon arriving in the parking lot off of Sawyer River Road, I noticed the vehicle of the infamous "HikerEd" sitting in the shade. Ed has hiked all 48 four-thousand foot mountains in NH some 49+ times. He's is a legend to most and a friend to many more. With a smile rivaled only by the cheshire cat himself, I couldn't wait to run into Ed and his group of hikers. While Gilly and Nate laced up their boots, I simply sauntered out of the car in my red crocs, smiled, shook my head and got ready to go.

As soon as we hit the trail I was able to see the kinds of problems hiking in crocs would pose for me this day. The bottoms of my indestructible shoe contained no traction as I've worn them clean and they slip and slide on the litany of fallen leaves. If I stepped in any mud, my feet would slide from side to side. There were pockets of standing water hidden under the leaves and given the holes in my crocs, if I accidentally stepped into one of these puddles, my foot would then be automatically soaked. Other then the aforementioned, hiking in the crocs was VERY comfortable and enjoyable.

The forest is mostly naked this time of year. The leaves are off of the trees and nestled into the cracks and crevices of the forest floor. This is both good and bad. While I miss the green canopy of summer, one is now afforded exceptional views typically unseen when the forest is full. We could hear the wind lightly dancing through the trees and the branches lightly rattled together. The higher we climbed, the cooler it got and on this magnificent day where the Valley Temps reached into the 50's, we were chilled by temps in the 30's up high. It is very much winter in these mountains, snow or not.

As we made it to the rocky switchbacks of the Signal Ridge Trail, we had finally caught up to HikerEd's group. They were resting and grabbing sips of fluids as well as enjoying a variety of snacks. Of course, I'm not one to turn down Ed's offer of chocolate. After introductions and a bit of jovial conversation, we decided to move along ahead of this group and make our bid for the summit. As we climbed ever higher, the conversation behind me got a little shorter and quieter. Gilly and Nate were doing an amazing job in keeping up with me, but it was obvious they were ready for some views.. especially since Gilly kept asking how much further it'd be.


And just as we'd leisurely walked into the woods a few hours before, we leisurely walked out into the sky. "Hey Gilly.. we're on the ridge.. enjoy." "Really?!" With as much excitement as she could contain, we all walked out onto Signal Ridge and enjoyed the views all around. And then, Gilly mentioned she thought it would be better. To this very moment I have no idea if she was being sarcastic in her expression about one of the finer views in the Whites. We took photos, paused for reflection, told more jokes and then pressed on to the summit. GIlly asked to here the story of the Waterman's.. I gladly told her what I knew from my research over the years.



In reaching the summit we climbed the old fire tower to take in the 365 degree views of these white mountains. 46 of the 48 4,000 Footers are visible from this peak. I had a hard time remembering the last time I had even been here. I was turned around in 2008 because of a thunderstorm... I think it was 2007 when I was here last with Sarah over the Memorial Day weekend. As the chilly winds blew across the summit, I thought back to the time I was here in Winter... and vowed to come back. After enjoying the views we decided to descend off the tower to eat our lunch. HikerEd and his group joined us on the top and all of us enjoyed entertaining the Gray Jays with some snacks to bring back to their nests.



After the feeding frenzy I sat down upon the stones under the tower and looked at the map. I asked GIlly and Nate how they felt about a bushwhack, they were all for it. SO I went over to HIkerEd and asked him if he had ever 'whacked off of Signal Ridge down to the Valley Below. He told me of a whack he'd done on the opposite side to bag another peak, but never what I proposed. We agreed that it would probably be open most of the way given the forest's nature. I agreed, took my group, and we headed back down to Signal Ridge. Once we reached the ridge, we glanced down off the steep side of the mountain and could see what looked like a large drainage down below. That became our target. Just as we were stepping off of the ridge, Gilly saw someone she knew (what else is new) and she said hello. Her friend's father gave us a puzzling look and asked if we were descending on a trail he never heard of, "Nope.. it's called bushwhacking... kinda like what hunters do." And with that, we slinked off of ridge, me in my crocs, into the unknown.


The upper reaches of the mountainside was a mix of thick spruce and deep deep moss. The moss was the most dangerous part. As it flowed over the stones and roots it did an amazing job of hiding many small crevasses, one wrong or unsuspecting step and your leg would easily fall a few feet down into nothingness. We played this delicate came for a short while as I led our group across the slope to the most open areas I could find. For the most part, we descended a few hundred feet before really getting into it with the forest. We then had a hell of a time pushing, pulling and of course weaving our way through the woods, but thankfully I was with the two most adventurous kids I could find. Laughing and smiling the entire way down hill, it seemed as though nothing was going to ruin the very spirit of our hike. We were having an amazing time engaged in adventure.


The hardest part for me was keeping my crocs on my feet. Every once in awhile one would slip off and I'd have to backtrack to retrieve it. I was thankfully for the copious amounts of moss that graced the mountain. Never once did I find a place to injure or compromise my feet, I was very pleased. I then spotted a more defined drainage off to our right, so I headed right for it. When I first got there it was easy to see that the thick intertwined network of branches made for a touch whack down through the rocks. I led us back into the woods for another 300 yards or so and we re-emerged out onto the drainage. It was wide open from here as we began to bleed elevation quickly. The further down we got the more open the drainage became.. and then... we found a rock slide.

We sauntered out of the thicker woods onto a wide open swatch of talus. It didn't matter where we stepped, the earth let go beneath us. Rocks slide all around us, carrying us down with it in a sulfur scented avalanche if we were not careful. Quick footwork was the key, which was hard in crocs, to make it down unscathed. With each step I took I felt the earth leave me, I ended up surfing down on the largest rocks I could find. As the tidal wave of rocks moved beneath me, others came down behind me, chasing my feet and as I stopped, I felt my ankles get pummeled from all angles with heavy sharp shards of rock... for some reason I loved it.

The further down we got, the larger the rocks got. As we scampered down I dove deep into my best Keith King impression. Keith is a pioneer of outdoor education and I had Gilly and Nate rolling with my dialogue. Our laughter echoed off of the rock strewn walls of the drainage we were in. ONe drainage after another filtered into the one we were in. Once small and almost unnoticeable, we were not walking down a pile of rocks wide enough to stick a two lane road into. We could hear the rushing of water close by as we started to grow annoyed with the constant rock hopping. Soon, water appeared to flow up form the earth and begin it's cascade downhill and eventually towards the ocean. Down lower we came to an opening to our right and upon pausing, I was taken a back by the sight of a magnificent waterfall. Water simply trickled over the edges of rocks. I'd love tobe back here during a heavy rain or after spring run off. It was amazing. Just up ahead, I noticed the river and drainage taking a hard right, it was time to duck back off to the left so back into the woods we go.

Once we scampered up the steep river bank, we entered into the forest of beechnuts and striped maple. This was moose country for sure with droppings a plenty. I wanted Nate and Gilly to get the true effects of finding their way out of the woods, so I pushed ahead at a quick clip. I kept them with ear shot while I remained mostly quiet in my travels. I found a HUGE fungi and left a story written on it, placing it neatly in the woods for another whacker to see... maybe some day. I eventually came to the trail where I settled myself down amongst the leaves and rested quietly while I heard Nate and Gilly thrash around amongst the brush. As I expected, they were drifting too far to the left while I sat to the right.. I hooted like an owl a few times to lure them towards me and it eventually worked. They emerged from the wood, unscathed minus a few scratches and holes in their clothing, but in the end... accomplished bushwhackers.

From here, we shuffled along through the leaves on our way out of the woods discussing an arrange of interesting topics, telling inappropriate jokes and even leading each other into hidden swaths of shin deep water (Thanks Gilly). I'm always ever amazed at the power of the Pemi. As we followed the old railroad bed back out of these woods, I was humbled to know once more than I am merely one walking amongst a forest of ghosts. But everything here in these woods contains a power beyond what is conceivable. Something here makes me feel whole again. Something here makes me feel at peace... something here makes me so alive. As we walked out of the woods, I was very thankful that I could bring at least two others to this place to perhaps experience what I do here... something beyond human... something real. Something.. amazing. I never asked them... but I can only hope within themselves they did.

When we reached the car I was jealous that they could slip into their crocs and be comfy. My feet were achey for sure! We saw Ed and his group huddled around his truck sucking down some PBR's. He offered us some libations to which we gladly accepted. We stood around and talked about this Grand and Magnificent place.. and I couldn't help but wonder what my next adventure here-in would be.. where to next..

Hiking in crocs wasn't bad at all. Some in the hiking community would scold me saying that I "need" or "should" hike in boots with ankle support. My response... you "need" or "should" live a little. Nothing in this life is black and white and you make your own adventures. Go out there and make some. Will I bushwhack in crocs again?? Not if I can help it!


Happy Trails
SJ

Monday, November 9, 2009

Attention Please....


Well here we are... November 2009. It's be an interesting and involving couple of months as you've likely seen here if you are a regular reader. No shortage of adventure and exploration. From Backpacking to day hikes. From The Vermont 50 to the Run Across New Hampshire. From a short race in the Wapack Range, to a bushwhack up the steeper slopes of Mount Lincoln in New Hampshires Franconia Notch State Park. It's been an amazing journey this end of the year, full of excitement, variation and adventures anew with life and intrigue. These last few months have seen a transition in not just my level and type of adventure, but the journey that lies ahead and the journey within.

I've taken a step back from my major at UNH in Outdoor Education and have been working diligently at my minor, Hospitality Management. The classes are demanding of my time and thought, nothing short of amazing, insightful and frustrating all at the same time. I've determined that I hate accounting almost as much as I hate EMT. However, back in the land of OE, I've been honored and privileged to play a pivotal role in resurrecting the Outdoor Education Club on Campus, changing it to focus on our community and presiding over it as well. Hours at work have dropped to a scant 3 hours a week for me, and with the holiday coming closer, I'm not going to get as many as I'd initially hoped for. But in the end, there's still running, still hiking, still adventure. Reminding myself that it's not so much about the finish, but the adventure has played an important role in it all as I keep plugging forward to that ever so distant finish line.

Depression continues to keep it's icy hold upon my mind this time of year. I have an easy time in thinking about where I was this time last year. This very week in 2008, I thought about suicide and dialed 911, saving my own life from imminent destruction. Two weeks later, I checked myself into a psychiatric ICU. Here in 2009, the journey towards recovery continues. I still carry with me a variety of demons and short comings. With the change in seasons and the depletion of daylight hours, my mind is ever more fragile yet my resiliency exists. In noticing the seasonal change and its effects on my thoughts and feelings.. I made extra appointments to see the necessary doctors, talked through the tough spots and increased my medication intakes. So far, in this journey, I'm ahead of the game in 2009 and the journey, here-in also, continues.

And now I welcome you again, to this blog, this place on the internet and ask you to lend me your eyes, your ears and your support. As this journey continues, I will not ask you to join me by cheering me on. I'll ask you to join me by asking you to get up off the couch, out of your chair and start running on your own. I've said it before, I'll say it again.. We are the authors of our own books, writing the pages in between. Now is the time to re-write your story, now is the time to create your own history. Now is the time to continue to discover our potential as humans. Now is the time to find that fire ignited inside, fuel the flames and move ever forward towards whatever tomorrow will bring. Tomorrow will bring what we want it to, it's up to me, it's up to you. Lets join in a magnificent journey together. A journey through today and into tomorrow. A journey based on dreams. A journey based on goals. A journey where once today has past and has become the yesterdays of tomorrow, we can look back and say with a magnificent smile that our story, our journey, is one worth reading.

Every year on my birthday I take the opportunity to sit back and decide if I'm satisfied with my life thus far; that if I died today, would I die happy. Last year I answered yes.. and this year, I turn the dial the other way and answer with a resounding no. Why? Because my story isn't finished yet. No.. my story is only beginning. I have unfinished business, dreams, goals, desires, wants, needs... I'm far from done writing my book and I'm not going to ever be satisfied until the day that I am. The day that will come where I can soundly write "The End" and be happy and courageous with the knowledge that the book is complete, the story has an ending worthy of happiness for not all but some.. and if at the very least.. for me. On October 20, 2009 as I turned 28.. I turned a new page and started a new chapter. The 28th chapter. The pen started writing, the story is being written. Chapter 27 ended with one hell of a struggle across 118 miles of cold winds, rain and snow. Chapter 28 is going to be filled with tears of joy, happiness, dreams accomplished, blood, guts, tears, dirt, water, wind, snow... and one hell of a journey.

And yet I sit here today and ask you for your attention please. Your attention to an answer I'l give one cowardly reader of this blog. A reader who left an anonymous comment in the days leading up to my Run Across New Hampshire where the coward asked if "Attention Motivates Me?" To the coward I said with as much honesty as I can let flow from these fingertips.. Yes my friend.. honestly in some ways it does. But you show me an ultra-runner who says it doesn't and I'll show you a liar. Why else would one subscribe to this self-masochistic freak show known as Ultra-running? Yes.. I will admit I love the attention, but not for the reasons in which your inquiry applies my cowardly friend.. no. I say yes because I enjoy the attention I get from family and friends.. those same individuals intrenched in this journey, held hostage by my inner thoughts and feelings. Those same individuals who one day told me that I was crazy for thinking I could ever run as far as I have. Those same individuals who didn't believe in the possibilities, the dedication I was willing to put forth.. those same individuals who look at me now and with astonishment, with jaws wide open, with silent mouths and clenched smiling lips, with tears streaming down face when I reach the rocks of an icy shore... the attention of those folks. Yes.. THAT ATTENTION MOTIVATES ME. Not because it was given to me.. but because I earned it. And instead, of writing in those pages of my book that they were right... I wrote in the pages that they were wrong.. and I was right and look at my sorry ass now. People who called me a joke, said to pay no attention to me because I was a no body.. and look at me now.. I'm still running after 5 years of negativity, after 5 years of doubt.. yes.. the attention motivates me.

So pay attention everyone.. the 28th chapter is just beginning. The pages are turning, the ideas are flowing and the goals are arriving before us. Either get on board or step off at the platform. I don't care if you decide to go, but I'd love to have you come along. I'd love to hear more about you all. Your goals, your adventures. I want to hear more about what you're doing today to create a better tomorrow. For YOU first, for the world second. I want to know what makes us all tick.. together. Because in 2010.. I'm going to need all the inspiration I can get. We have a monumental task in front of us.. but we're going to tear down these walls. We're going to stand up today and lead ourselves into the greater tomorrow. We're going to stand ready at starting lines and stand vigilant at finish lines. We're going to climb to 10,000 feet. We're going to run through rivers, across snow frosted peaks. We're going to see it all from sea to shining sea. This chapter is just beginning... welcome to the ride that is... HUMAN POTENTIAL.

~SJ

Friday, November 6, 2009

Lincoln's Throat - Swallow Hard

What: Mt. Lincoln and Mt. Lafayette
Where: Franconia Notch, NH
When: Monday, October 12, 2009
Who: Sherpa John and Bryan Mazaykia
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As a younger hiker I'd taken many trips up the Old Bridle Path to the Greenleaf Hut or Mount Lafayette. I'd glare out across the Walker Ravine and marvel at the scoured sides of Mount Lincoln. The peaks rise so steeply, creating the fabeled notch, that the earth has no choice but to let go of its grips, succumb to gravity and crash ever further into the valley. I specifically remember a trip just 6 years ago, where I'd stand amongst the rock outcrop where one is afforded their first views of the Fraconia Ridge. We stood atop the cliff and threw rocks down into the ravine, watching as they would explode and scatter into dust as they collided with other rocks and trees. This woman came up and scolded us, telling us "Someone could be down there." I remember laughing.. hard.. glancing down into the green abyss and thinking, "Yeah right.." Flash forward to 10.12.09 and here I was.. in the valley hoping someone else wasn't being as ignorant as I and chukcing stones below.

Bryan and I drove up from UNH early in the morning. As we watched the rising sun cast it's shadows amongst the hills, our first views of the ridge from Ashland did not look promising. A veil of clouds had encapsulated the ridge and I knew rime is was being encrusted onto every surface up there. We parked in the Lafayette Place lot, (Southbound), then walked under 93 and headed up The Old Bridle Path to where the Falling Waters Trail verges off to the right. From here, we'd walk just a little further up the trail to where it takes a hard left. We wandered off into the woods on the straight and narrow, following the river along a well trodden herd path.

What started out as an obvious fishing route soon turned into an all out logging road, or at least the appearance of being a logging road. The birch allowed us to have amazing line of sight through the forest as we followed a well established path ever higher up the river bank. Eventually, we'd be forced to cross as the terrain grew steeper and the ravine deeper. This herd path went on forever and ever all the way up until we reached a form in the river. Here we had to choose to go right or left. Left would climb Lafayette, and right climbed Lincoln's Throat. We veered off to the right and our breath was taken away.



The clouds continued to tickle the tops of the peaks on high but as they cleared, we could see the magestic white rime ice that had encassed everything up high. The contrast of white above the leaves with a mix of gray skies and clear blue made for a spectacular fall display of color. The rocks kept getting bigger and bigger the higher up we went and as water trcikled down the mountain-side, it froze upon the stones, causing us to slip and slide from time to time. Travel was growing treacherous through we continued on.

Soon we reached the true run-out of the massive slide and glared ever higher wondering how the hell we'd ever make it up there. The slide continued to grow steeper and steeper and icier and icier. Then all of sudden we went from being in a world of gold, orange and reds (Autumn) to a world of white and chilly winds (Winter). It was hard to not stop and take it all in. Just enjoy the earth for the beauty it possess's. We came upon sections of rock slab which were difficult to negotiate. It was actually rather time consuming. Every time we came upon a section of slab, we had to carefully hone our eyes in on the sections of ice, and place our feet on what little areas of bare rock existed. This practice was dangerous and nerve racking. As I was doing so, I'd look down and have an opportunity to realize just how far down I may travel if I slipped. At times, Bryan just gave up on the rock and headed into the tree's. He'd come out up high, soaked from the rime and snow he shook off the trees and carried with him.

Finally, we arrived at the Head Wall of the slide. We'd followed herd paths and man-made cairns just to get here.. and see this. It was magnificent! Ice was all ready forming thickly down it's sides, of which I am certain excites the ice climbers of New England as this is one of more talked about routes. The wall was about 45-50 feet high, straight-up, and ominous looking. Like the gates to a hidden castle, we stood in front with our jaws wide open, awe struck by it's mystery and splendor. Without ropes, crampons or any other necessary gear to climb the wall today givent he icy conditions, we search for a way around. The the right is another long wall of rock and ice, too steep to be negotiated. To the left, our only option existed, a steep climb up a rock face with about a 75-80% grade/angle. Bryan led the way...



At first we tried our best to climb the rocks, I wished I had my rock climbing shoes and a harness. It was steep, terrifying and a testament to knowing your surroundings and tuning into your senses. I tried my best to follow Bryan's lead.. he is a much better climber then I. Soon I heard him say, "turn back." "What do you mean?!" "There is no where to go up here. It's all ice, a dead end.. I'm coming down." Bryan climbed down and soon caught up to me while I tried to negotiate the rocks. We searched for a few ways of getting across the slab, and after a few failed attempts, we finally found a way, thought risky, over to the safety of the spruce. From here, we clawed and crawled our way through thick spruce, so thick that you couldn't see your feet, where you were going and was only awarded with sporadic fews to our backsides. It was crazy thick, yet, not the thickest I've seen in the whites. We shook more rime off the trees, got spruce needles down our backs and fought our way ever higher. Bryan was a tad frustrated, while I sang songs and whistled along. I was in heaven.


Finally, we topped out on top of Mount Lincoln, stood on the Franconia Ridge trail and stared down into the never ending ravine below, dumbfounded by what we had just accomplished. We made it and it was a hell of an adventure, not for everyone, but perfect for us. We sat down amongst the stones on top of Lincoln, soaked from head to toe, covered in spruce and ate our lunch. We bundled up and carried on to Lafayette before heading down the Old Bridle Path. We stopped in at Greenleaf Hut to listen to the banter of fellow hikers. I was annoyed.. and needed to leave here if I heard one more foul slur for Owls Head. I think some of these peak-baggers need to suck it up a bit, Owls Head isn't hard at all.. it's just a longer day then they are used to. Yet I digress. We enjoyed left-over desserts, some lemonade and then we took off. When we got to the rocky outcrop I spoke of at the beginning of this report, I stopped to again glance out over the ravine and we looked at what we had accomplished... and we both stood there, silently, scratching our heads wondering how the hell we did.




From here I asked Bryan if he wanted to run, "It's only a 10 minute run to the car from here." We strapped everything in and down and headed off down the trail running as comfortably as we could in boots. We made it to the car in 13 minutes, I was off. However, funny story.. on the way down we passed a small group of children and their parents. They were playing tag. As we ran passed, I got tagged as one of the kids mistooken me for one of their own. As I reached the head of the pack, I tagged them and said, "you're it." About 8 minutes later, Bryan and I reached the car when a small boy came running up to me. "Hey, you the guy that was running down the mountain?" "Yeah" He tagged me and said, "You're it." I got a HUGE kick out of this as I very much enjoyed the power and spirit of our youth.. especially in the mountains.

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Lincoln's Throat... complete.

~SJ