“End one only to begin another” I am not sure if anyone has ever stated that quote before, but it is what is ringing in both of our heads at the moment. We are 80 miles away from Duluth at our first stop on the trip, Jeanie’s. It rained earlier, but after a 9 hour drive the night couldn’t appear more beautiful.
Zach and I did not complete a 3700 mile bike tour. However, I believe we achieved so much more. We did complete a bike tour though, about 1200 miles in 12 days. After a drastic turn in our plan we were able to spend more time with the YMCAs and more time with the camp kids. We were also able to get closer with the community and spreading our message on a more personal level. For heaven’s sake, we attended a wedding. On a bike tour. Along with this we hiked three of the highest mountains in New York, Kayaked miles and miles on lake George, and went on the occasional run. It’s one thing to say that you have biked out to Maine and back. It’s another to be able to say that with the extra time we had, I have kids with their parents wanting us to come back and visit them all across this country. It is something to say that you have made a difference. We did all of this to stress to you not only the importance of exercise or the strong kids, but the importance of making this difference. If you believe in something, use our story as motivation to go out and express it. No excuses, no complications, “just (in the words of Nike) do it.”
We will arrive in Duluth tomorrow at the YMCA at 12:00 to talk to some kids at 12:30. This isn’t exactly our homecoming, but if you wanted to go to that, it is next Wednesday, the 31st, at 5:00-6:30. Come join us at the beach house. Maybe show your support by riding your bike there.
I will also stress that Zach and I are not done. Oh no. This trip is about to end, but our healthy lifestyles are far from finished. And to also let you know ( I know it is a lot of things, but hey, prime time for reflection right?) that you should always keep your faith in humanity. It is unfortunate that we are always presented with so many evil things people do every day, but use our story to show you that there are some gems out there, and of course to be one yourself.
I’ll stop blabbering now and let you guys soak up some pictures:
After setting out from Colin’s, we made our trek to Chicago. Zach’s cousin travels a lot for his work, so he hooked us up with a free hotel. The ride over was fairly uneventful, but once we got there we headed out from our hotel and made a nice walk around the area. The next day we woke up early to get on the road to see YMCA USA. Traffic wasn’t all that bad making our way to downtown Chicago, and we made sure to park far away so we could get a nice walk in before our tour. The actual tour was fun and we got to meet a lot of people who are behind all the major programs that all the YMCAs offer. I would like to thank all the different people that we met to let us pause your busy busy days to let us tell you about our story. You were all great listeners, a little better than the camp kIds, and it was really fun to see the heart of all the good that the YMCA does. After our tour we made our way back to the car to start our drive to Grand Rapids. The funny thing was, was that Zach found out a day before that his mom was actually fairly close by on business and that she could meet up with us for lunch. So, out of the blue, we had an awesome lunch with Zach’s mother. After the delicious lunch we made the rest of the way to Grand Rapids where we were planning on seeing a YMCA there, but it wasn’t figured out in time. So, slightly stranded, we made out way slightly northeastish to Bay City where we stayed with a guy we met so long ago. We had a relaxing night here were we got to get closer to them and exchange fun stories. Phew, you’re finally caught up. Now for our plans: Tomorrow we are staying at Petosky, MI, then Thursday night we will stay at Jeanie’s house. (The house that we stayed at our first night on our trip) then in the morning on Friday we will make our way to DULUTH. At 12:00 at the Duluth YMCA we will be there saying hello to the kids that wished us farewell a little over a month ago. Feel free to pop in and show your face, Zach and I would love to see you guys. As far as a formal homecoming, Mollie Nelson, the awesome marketing directed that has helped us endlessly on this whole trip came up with the brilliant idea of a potato bar. Mollie had to explain what it was to me, because I was not familiar so I will go by the assumption that you, the one reading this, does not know either. A potato bar (by the way this comes from our name the Bike Potatoes) is where you take a baked potato, and you have a bar of fixings where you stuff your baked potato. Then, in this case, you chow down on your potato while you listen to Zach and I talk forever about adventures on our trip, advice we have, reflections, and much much more. So, come down to the beach house at 5:00-6:30pm on Wednesday, July 31.
Here are some pictures:
On July 20th we were able to crash a wedding. The nurse that we stayed with after our crash 3 weeks ago told us about their wedding and let us know that we could crash it if we wanted. Coming back from Maine, Zach and I realized that we very well could crash the wedding, so we made sure to set aside the time. It was a little tough at first because we did not know so many people, but after a few conversations about our story it felt like we belonged there. We had a great time at the wedding meeting everyone and indulging in the food. The music that was there was awesome and the wedding itself was fabulous. At the wedding we met many of people, one of which was Colin and in loving our story he decided to take us in for the following night. He took us out to the lake (Huron) where we jet skied and water skied and enjoyed the warm weather. After that he made sure we were fed and followed food with a night full of conversations of depth. The next morning he sent us off with eggs in our stomach and smiles on our faces. Thanks for a good time and I wish all of our Canadian friends the best of travels and that we will return.
Here are some pictures:
We are on our way back. We stayed in Maine for the seventeenth where we went to a pond with all the camp kids and talked to them, along with jumping in and swimming with them. After the camp kids, we went out to Morse Mountain where you can hike out to the Atlantic. Zach and I ran through the trail and jumped in ocean to cool off afterwards. When we finished diving through waves and coughing up salt water we ran back to the car. It was a wonderful hike apart from the green headed horse flies they have here. Lets just say we made a dent in the population. After the hike we went back and found some dinner at a place by the name of Red’s Eats. You can get lobster rolls there, which is like a hot dog bun stuffed with two lobster tails and miscellaneous lobster meat. They were delicious. Following the lobster roll we were invited out to play cards with the ymca’s camp councilors. After a good time, we walked out to a peer in the pouring rain where we watched a tremendous lightning storm light up the sky for about an hour. After the storm, sleep followed. The next day we woke up and said goodbye to the camp kids. None of them wanted to see us go and were all hanging on us trying to stop us from leaving. Even a little boy gave me a stone telling me to remember him forever and to come back. It was one of the harder exits that we have had to make. Once on the road, we had a three hour drive to New Hampshire where we stayed with previous Duluth residents! They took is down to the lake for a swim and then made an awesome dinner with hot dogs, burgers, bratwurst, salad, quinoa, and strawberry short cake for dessert. That night Zach and I played a game of bumper pool, an older version of pool, and discovered that it is one of the hardest games EVER. After sleeping in two comfortable beds we made our way to a kitchen filled with blueberry pancakes. If I were to estimate, Zach and I had about 10 each. (With peanut butter on each one of course) after breakfast and getting our clothes washed we said goodbye to our lovely New Hampshire hosts and we moved onward to Buffalo, NY where we are currently staying with Kevin, a man we met before we climbed Mount Marcy. He ordered us some famous pizza and wings and we ate fully. But don’t get the wrong idea, tomorrow morning we are going on a run to burn all of it off. Tomorrow, oh tomorrow. We. Are. So. Excited. For. Tomorrow. We texted the nurse that we stayed with in London to see if we could pick it up tomorrow. She replied with (paraphrased) “I’m putting my foot down, you’re coming to our WEDDING, and celebrating with us and then spending the night at a house”. So, tomorrow we are going to a wedding! I can’t believe it. Anyway, I hope all of you are getting outside and drinking a lot of water! Even just go for a walk with your dog, they’ll love it and so will you.
P.S. I tried a new sandwich. Two cliff bars squished down. You put peanut butter in between the two and chow down. WOW. It was awesome.
Here are some pictures!
Zach again with the story-time sequel. I’ve been getting to bed a little bit earlier these past few nights and haven’t had time to write it up, anyway…
After a full day of hiking, we quickly fell asleep, ready to embrace the oblivion of the night. It would seem that someone did not believe we had earned that rest though; the temperature plunged and it was a struggle to lie still as shivers wracked our bodies. While Parker did eventually fall into a troubled sleep, my eyes remained wired open as my body shook despite the multiple layers I had dawned. I remained in that frozen purgatory until the sun rose and the temperature with it. Only then was I able to rest after nearly eight hours of staring at the walls of our tent. Parker woke at 9:50 but let me sleep until 12:00. With a good portion of the day lost, we decided to hike a short distance to the summit of Phelps Mtn. (Which was another peak over 4,600 feet)
As we took our first steps, we quickly felt the effects of yesterday’s journey. Blood welled in our limbs, rendering them stiff and sore. Stretching was only a partial remedy, a realization that we tried to suppress as we prepared the five mile hike before us. The climb began on another of the many hard-beaten paths that patrol the foothills. I found myself questioning what fraction of the people in the park actually came to cross mountains. The trail gave way to the rocks of a somewhat dry riverbed as we neared the foothills. The orientation of the stones was not unlike that of a staircase and resulted in a fairly easy climb. I was able to appreciate my surroundings much more completely as I no longer had to pay attention to every specific angle
of and distance between rocks. We were flanked by all manner of leafed trees, and the forest floor was covered with the colors of leaves in different stages of decay. Tangled and gnarled roots slithered across the trail, serving as footholds in some places, their bark smoothed by hundreds of uncaring boots. Here, a small stream of rain water left over from yesterday’s drizzle trickled beneath our feet, carrying away loose sentiment and polishing the rocks it flowed over. There, a tree had fallen across our path, its truck scattered in a thousand prices where it had broken from its anchor and its limbs reaching our to snag our clothing as we hurtled its attempt to dissuade us. We knew that we were close as our stairway became a terraced wall that we were to scale. Boulders the size of a man were stacked on top of each other with only tree roots, on the way of hand holds, providing a means to scale them. I ascended ahead of Parker this time, confident that his shoulder would not betray him in this climb. We moved slowly, hand over hand, I only barely registered the weight of my pack pulling my back down.
My hand gripped the rough edge of the next rock, hoisting me up from the root that I was standing on. Parker was below me, without looking I could picture him taking his time to pick the easiest way to make the climb. I must be some ways ahead of him. I stepped up to the ledge, pausing to crush another mosquito under my palm and to let Parker catch up. We had been talking about a book that I was reading for the past hour now and I wanted to make sure he remained within ear-shot. He always did complain that I mumbled too often and failed to properly enunciate. We were almost to the top now, I could see the valley below me. Waves of forest flowed out beneath me. That was what they looked like, giant waves. As if I were trapped in the tides of a green sea in a storm, nearly on the apex of a gargantuan swell. The weather was much too nice for a storm though. Clouds drifter lazily overhead in the paradigm of a blue sky. I turned and began to climb again. I wanted to get to the top soon, I was hungry and the landscape would provide a nice view for the meal that I had packed.
The top of the mountain was not of bare rock as was Marcy or Skylight. Still below the tree line, pines stood on either side of us upon a typical carpet of fallen needles. A cramped path of stone wove its way through them, slowly zig-zagging upwards. Eventually we can to a large outcropping that stood apart from the greenery. Pale gray stone, rendered smooth by what I could only assume was the wind formed a vast porch on the top of the mountain. Parker and I sat, our feet dangling precariously over the edge, as I opened my pack and removed our lunch. As I clumsily opened a can of chicken breast I took in the panoramic view provided. We gazed down from a mountain in a forest of mountains, each covered by forest. Peaks broke out above and below us, though all were distant. There were no bodies of water nor cliff faces to take away from the uniformity of the dark colors of the woods surrounding us. We ate in silence before digressing to read the books that we had brought with us. We had figured that it would be a peaceful enough setting.
Two hours later, around 5:00, we closed our books and began the descent down the mountain. This time, it felt that we were moving at a much faster pace than that of our climb up. We made our way down the steepest of the boulders with this in mind before stepping on to the more level stones of the river-bed.
My momentum increased as I moved over the next rock, using the slim truck of a tree to swing me across. My feet met the surface of stones faster, my mind quickly calculating where I had to place them. Parker was ahead of me, doing the same. Before we knew it we were running down the mountain. I leapt from one rock to the next, swinging between the limbs of trees when I could. My legs powered me over beds of mud. My strides lengthened as I ran faster, the thrill at the possibility of falling and surly breaking something only spurred me on. The silence of the trail was broken by the thud thud thud of our feet pounding across it. Between our speed and the roughness of terrain, I marveled at my ability to place my feet on and apply the right force to a stone when one wrong move would see me dashed against them. The forest rushed past me, blurred as I hurdled a boulder before skipping to another four feet away. A young couple was coming up the trail. I smiled as I noticed the way they were starring as if what we were doing was totally insane. I can assure you that it was. For two miles I ran, my shoes never touching the ground, accept for that one time I slipped. Then I had mud all up my leg. Besides that I was feeling very entertained. Adrenaline rushed through me, filling my limbs with the ability to flit between protruding roots, leaning tree trunks and the stones that littered the trail. The pack I wore was tightly secured to my torso, I could feel its straps digging into my abdomen. The entire experience was a blur, I struggled to contain joyous laughter.
Reaching the end if the trail, we paused to rest before continuing back to our camp. Even though we had hiked only a fourth of the previous day’s distance. We felt that the run made up for a few miles. The rest of the night was spent cooking up supper and reading after night had fallen.
Our destination is finally upon us! We started off the morning today with a delicious breakfast at the Silver Bay YMCA. Then we hopped in the oh so lovely Prius and cruised towards Maine. We went into Vermont and then like 40 miles or so we were into New Hampshire. Once we entered New Hampshire it was only a matter of hours before we drove into the wonderful state. We finally arrived at the Bath YMCA, and we met up with some people at The Y and got situated. Then, well we waited until supper time, Zach and I went into downtown and got some souvenirs for people back home and I also got some ice cream which was made in Maine. After that we traveled back to the YMCA where, after finishing off some homemade fudge, we were taken out to get some lobster. The dinner was awesome and the view was great. After dinner we went to a state park and waded into the ocean and took some pictures. we walked up some rocks overlooking the ocean and we saw two huge bald eagles flying around. it was a great site to see. As a side note, the seagulls here are literally three times as big ad the ones in Duluth. Deadly deadly. Tomorrow I think we are going to track down some more popular restaurants with lobster and get our fill. Also tomorrow we are going to spend a large part of the day hanging out with the camp kids here and showing them how much fun being active can be. Remember that if you give 1 dollar to the YMCA strong kids campaign, that dollar will go to a family that is having difficulty affording to put their kids into YMCA programming. I’m of course not asking you to empty your banking accounts, but even I, a broke college kid, donated. So, see if you can spare some pocket change! There is a donate button on our blog, it’s green, or you can always go to your local ymca’s webpage to give. Enough chitter chatter about all that, here’s some pictures:
I know it’s a lot of pictures, but I thought that picking and choosing what photos I should share just isn’t necessary. I hope you enjoy!
Hey guys, it’s Parker again. My apologies for my lack of imagery in my posts, English has never really been my thing. Zach, I think, will be making another post here to talk about our second day in the Adirondack Park where we hiked another high peak. All I have to say about our adventures out there is that “breathtaking” was an understatement. I just wanted to make a quick post about what we are up to currently, I wouldn’t want any of you to worry. After our lovely hikes in the mountains, we continued our journey to a YMCA camp in Silver Bay, New York. I must say, it is quite the paradise. They have an unimaginable list if things to do on and around the lake, Lake George, which is surrounded by mountains not too different from the ones we hiked up just a couple days ago. Just to give you a glimpse of what it’s like here, we arrived yesterday around 2:00 and we unpacked all of our things. We hung around until dinner time, and indulged in prime rib accompanied by countless fruits and vegetables. After stuffing ourselves, I grabbed the last minutes of daylight to take advantage of the kayaking they offer here. I slid through the water, that could have been mistaken for glass, into the middle of the lake. Since the boat house closed at eight I turned my kayak around to head in. Upon doing so I saw the sun drop right below the range of mountains in the distance. The feeling of complete enjoyment overtook me and I cruised back to shore. I followed that by a nice run around the area and then went into the fitness center to finish off my work out. After waking up this morning, I started doing all those things again. I have about 3 hours of kayaking under my belt today (great shoulder strengthening by the way) and another run is on the way. Anyway, just thought I would let you guys in on what we are up to. I think we are leaving this wonderful camp Tuesday morning and arriving in ¡¡¡¡¡¡MAINE!!!!!!!! in the afternoon.
I would also like to remind you that every calorie we burn is to help you guys realize how fun and easy it is to exercise. So seriously, do it.
The first notion that we had of entering the park was the loss of cell phone reception. I often asked myself what phone company is most widely used in New York, or if cell phones are used at all, as both AT&T and Verizon had limited connection at best, flitting in and out of reception as we travelled through the State Park that is the northern half of New York. The journey itself was one of quick turns, high inclines and sharp descents of roadway that navigated the valleys crammed between the green mountains that rose up on either side of us. Dense forest and sheer rock-faces bordered the asphalt with an intent, it seemed, to swallow up the highway and reclaim its ravaged territory as it fought to find purchase on class-5 dirt shoulders and demolish the medians with falling rocks. We passed many construction crews attempting to repair the latest assaults upon the road. The mountains themselves were only half seen, only revealed if one pressed their face to a window to look upwards in the hope of seeing the apex of the dark green walls that hemmed the road in. After driving along that winding passage for quite some time, we turned onto the trail that would lead us to the Adirondack Park. The forest suddenly disappeared then, as if to grant us our first real view of the mountains that we had it in our minds to climb.
The vista laid out before us was incredible: squat constructs of bedrock, thrust upwards from the earth in a time before man and populated by the earth-green shades of canopy, rose above distant forests as fat giants looking out across the world with content. Cotton clouds rode upon the highest peaks, creating a scene, despite the grayness of the sky, that was more commonly found decorating the pages of a seasonal calendar. This lasted only a few moments before the view was once again swallowed up by the thick, moss-covered trunks of trees and dense foliage. A few more minutes saw us arriving at the service center that would designate which trails to travel and what precautions were to be taken with the high population of bears in the area. They outfitted us with a map and a “bear can”, a bear-proof container that would contain our all of our food-stuffs. After gearing up for the two-mile hike that would bring us to our campground, we were ready to spend the next three days as mountaineers.
Parker and I arrived at our campsite around 7:00 with plenty of daylight left to make dinner and settle in. The grounds themselves were something special. Directed by a woman who spends most of her time hiking trails to track and document the movements of bears, we were allowed to find a secluded campsite hidden by a small stream and nestled in a wooded peninsula. We were asked to keep its location a secret as the site is considered special by the park-rangers (apparently we appeared worthy of such knowledge). After dinner and a short discussion, it was determined that we would hike Mt. Marcy, the tallest mountain in New York at 5,344 feet and from there make the short climb over to Mt. Skylight (4926 ft) for a nice 11 mile round trip.
It was a decent morning I guess, the canopy parted above the trail to let the sun shine down into my eyes and warm my skin. I tied the bandana around my head to ward off the flies and to hold the sweat inside my scalp. The pack I wore carried the food and water that we would need for the climb and was cinched tightly around my torso, it’s weight lending me a feeling of assurance. Parker didn’t have one, but that was his loss. The trail began as one of hard-packed dirt and I couldn’t help but think about all those thousands who had walked it before me. Or maybe it was hundreds, Marcy was a pretty high peak. Trees and undergrowth rose to either side of me but I wasn’t acutely aware of it, my world was shrunk down to the next ten feet in front of me as I navigated the roots and rocks that began to appear more frequently and the sucking mud that always seemed to find its way into my boots, even as I stepped around it. Four miles from the top the ground began to shoot up in a steady incline. Because we were climbing a mountain and mountains go up. The hard-beaten dirt of the trail gave way to the rocks and pebbles of the not-so-dried-up streams that fell down Marcy after the rains had come, which was just about every day. The weight of my pack clung to my shoulders as I followed Parker up the step-like stones that led up the mountain. Hours passed and still we climbed, step by step, ignoring the greenery and beauty of the forest around us as we fought to keep our footing among mischievous rocks that were not always as stable as they appeared to be. My thighs and calves burned with effort and I could feel the sweat trickling down my back, soaking my shirt. Mud was spattered up my pant-legs and a sheen of perspiration clung to my skin. It was more uncomfortable than anything, I just wanted to reach the top so I could discover what it was that Parker was so keen to see. We stopped just over a mile from the summit at Indian Falls to refuel our water. I looked around for a tomahawk or an arrowhead that would give me a reason for the name of the falls, I was disappointed to find none. Looking up, I noticed a cloud hovering above us, not in the distant stratosphere but no more than a few feet from my outstretched hand. The accompaniment of the clouds with the river, the dark pines and the waterfall seemed as it had come out of some Lewis Carol fantasy, I mused.
As we continued, the trail got steeper, I had to use my hands now to climb over monstrous boulders while trying not to slip on the moisture that covered them, though I ended up doing so on more than one occasion. I watched Parker closely, his arm hadn’t regained its full range of motion and I was waiting for him to slip so that I could catch him. He kept his balance though. We passed the point where leafed trees could grow and pines would only obtain six feet in height. Moss was everywhere and everywhere was sore from carrying a thirty-five pound pack up a 5300 foot mountain. The big rocks we had to climb gave way to even bigger rocks, we were almost there. Suddenly the trees were gone and I realized with a bit of amusement that we were a above the tree line. I looked down the way we came, or rather out at the surrounding area. Titanic shapes rolled beneath me, like hills across a plain but much more pronounced. The flanks of those hills descended into deep valleys thousands of feet below us and I fancied I could pick out our starting point. I looked away before I could absorb in the whole scene, I didn’t want to take anything away from the view at the top.
Parker and I reached the summit of Mt. Marcy about a half-hour later. The summit was of blue-gray rock, occasionally dotted with growths of
the lichen and fungi that can only grow there. Small stones, carried by hikers from the beginning of their climb, were arranged I an almost ritualistic manner around these growths as if they were something sacred. Structure-piles of these same stones formed wards that looked out from the summit over the mountaintop. And what a view they had! Mountains rose and fell for as far as the eye could see, the horizon itself being formed by their jagged shapes. Deep greens and browns covered the surface of the mountains, trees and topsoil that just barely hung on to the rock beneath. In many places, these colors had been washed away, exposing gray stone. Lakes pooled at the feet of these mountains, sunlight flickering off their surfaces. We stood at the highest point of our known world, wind billowing around us and the clouds hovering below us. We felt as some elder gods, primordial beings gazing out at the earth that was ranged beneath our feet. All the beauty of nature, the power of great waterfalls, the majesty of near-endless forests, the soft and rolling bodies of cotton clouds, these things were beneath our feet. All the constructs of men, immense cities, towers of steel and glass, roadways that stretched for thousands of miles, these things were beneath our feet. We stood above the earth, above nature and above mankind. That is what it is like to stand on a mountain.
The feeling was repeated after we descended Mt. Marcy and ascended Mt. Skylight, but it could not compare to the original rapture. Even as we made our way back to camp, we thought of these things. Even though our legs ached and our feet were raw, we could not shake the vision of the mountain. Parker and I arrived at our camp at 3:00. It had taken us 6 hours to climb eleven miles. After pausing to rest, we decided that it would be a good idea to run the two miles back to our car, through the woods and dodging mud-traps and loose roots the whole way. Once there, we showered and ate before making our way back to our tent. In all, we had hiked more than fifteen miles that day, dinner was consumed quickly and we were asleep soon after we were in the tent.
Here’s some photos!
Today we are headed into the Adirondack Park where there are countless hiking opportunities and beautiful sites to see. Our initial plan is to get up there today, do a small hike this afternoon, and then hike into our base camping area, Marcy Damn. Yes, this is the base camp to the highest peak in New York, Mount Marcy. We will begin our hike tomorrow morning and it will take us two full days to get back down. I have talked to some people and the word I keep hearing is “breathtaking.” I hope my iPhone camera will be able to amount to its full potential as I take many pictures for you all to enjoy as soon as we are able to post again. Please take time to realize that even if you don’t have a mountain to climb, you still can bike to work. Stay healthy.