30 March, 2016

Trailing Off

Welp needless to say it was a slow week.  The name of the game recently has been saving up money for my move and as a result I've been laying low, taking it easy, and bargain shopping (read: eating ramen for every meal) so unfortunately there isn't much to talk about!  The biggest thing I've been trying to tackle is my cross-country trip and where the heck I'm going to go on the way to Seattle.  Now if I wanted to I could book it and be there in 3 days but let's face it, driving coast to coast is not something that happens often so I want to make the most of it.  The best things I can think of to see on the way are our national parks so getting to as many of those as possible is going to be high on my trip's priority list.  It's going to be a while before I get the entire plan locked down but you'll see it here as I make progress!

In other news my Dad presented an interesting idea while I was visiting this past weekend: why not thru hike the AT this year?  At first my reaction was "Hah!  Yeah okay Pops, nice one."  Except not really because I think I would get punched in the face if I called my Dad "Pops," and I would deserve it.  But then I thought about it and it actually seems fairly reasonable.  I'm tripping up to Boston at the end of April for PAX East but after that...well there's really not anything tying me down.  Of course I told him that he'd have to cover the cost of my move if I did go with him, and needless to say we're still in negotiations.

If you follow my YouTube channel you'll notice I've made a triumphant return to making videos on the reg recently.  Of course it's nothing super interesting unless you like jokey open-world simulation video games.  And bears.  Playing Bear Simulator is super fun and I know it's not exactly the same as traversing the wilds in person but hey, I'll take adventure wherever I can find it.  I maintain that exploring in games can give you the same sense of wonder and accomplishment as exploring in real life, it's just a different flavor of the same delicious ramen of life.  Did I mention I was spending less?


20 March, 2016

Land of the Noon Day Sun - Pt. III

The first official day of Spring Break this year started with the same feeling I have before most backpacking trips. I was fully packed and was feeling a mixture of excitement and apathy. I was super excited to be backpacking for the first time in years, but also had this sense that at any time I could back out at the last second. As usual, my excitement prevailed! Over a decade ago, in 2003 and 2004, I had hiked the majority of the Nantahala National Forest’s section of the Appalachian Trail with my father and our Boy Scout troop, but this time we were heading back to finish out the Forest with my little sister, Jessica. It would be her first backpacking trip.

On the first day we set out from the NOC and hiked north for about 7 miles to Sassafras Gap Shelter.  We gained about 2000 feet in elevation within the first 6 miles so it was a pretty rough in climb for the first day of a trip, let alone the first experience Jessica had with the sport. When we began our ascent we could see the snowcapped peaks of the Smokies in the distance and I really wanted to see snow on our trip. Both of my previous trips to the Nantahala National Forest had been in the middle of winter, but the second trip I had been robbed of the chance of hiking through snow. The trail didn’t disappoint as later on in the day once we reached higher elevations the trail was lined with snow. That night we shared a campfire with some Thru-Hikers before receiving a few minutes of a snow/sleet mixture. Overnight temperatures fell below freezing.

Dad and Jessica in the Snow.
Day 2 started off with us resuming the climb to the top of Cheoah Bald. It was the highest elevation we would reach on our trip and the views were spectacular! But everyone who has ever hiked the Appalachian Trail knows that what goes up, comes back down, and then back up again. After taking our lunch break at Stecoah Gap we continued our hike to Brown Fork Shelter up and over what I would consider the steepest section of trail I have ever hiked. There were times when I could literally reach my hand out if I stood straight up and touch the trail in front of me. Over all we ended the day at around 9.2 miles and shared our campsite with a new group of Thru-hikers. Pilgrim (his Trail name) and two Germans had been hiking together for a few days. They were a more social group than we had met the night before.

All three of us on top of Cheoah Bald.
When we were initially planning the trip, we planned on 4 days and 3 nights. We were going to hike from Fontana Dam to the NOC. Since I was recovering from a knee injury I suggested we flip the direction of our trip around and hike Northbound instead. So the night before the third day we finalized our plans to push through and finish the trip in 3 days. We started fairly early and hiked to Cable Gap Shelter where we stopped for lunch and to filter extra water.

Our third day we ended up hiking right around 13.8 miles to Fontana Dam. We took a small break at the Fontana Hilton, the massive shelter maintained near the Dam, and caught up with Pilgrim and the Germans one last time before loading up in the truck and heading home. The trip itself was absolutely incredible and only fueled my rekindled desires to Thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, something that I have wanted to do since I was in Elementary School.

Cable Gap Shelter

13 March, 2016

Westbound and Up

So it's been a pretty bland couple of weeks here honestly, I haven't gotten out much since my last post but I do have another kind of adventure in the works I'd like to talk about.  For a while now I've been wanting to make a big move and get out of North Carolina and move out west and/or north, ideally up to the great city of Seattle, Washington.  I've had this idea in mind since like 2014 so it's really nice to finally be taking steps towards making it happen.  So announcing it here for the world to see, I'll be moving to Seattle by, at the latest, August of this year!

Me when I visited Seattle last August.

There's a lot of reasons I want to make this happen and a lot of them have to do with the region of the Pacific Northwest and how goddamn gorgeous it is.  I expect to get to do a lot more getting out of the house and into the woods when there's deep forest only about an hour away and gratuitous hiking trails even closer.  Maybe it's the wrong impression but I picture the PNW just being 95% woods and forest, which is exactly the kind of place I want to live.  Not to mention that I'd really like to get into mountaineering and hey what do you know, the Cascades are right there!

Another major reason I want to move to Seattle is the University of Washington.  I've been tossing around the idea of pursuing a Masters degree for some time now and UW is a great school.  I'm not 100% sure what program I'm going to study but right now I'm looking into the Civil and Environmental Engineering program to start in 2017.  "But Evan, why move so soon if you're not planning on starting for a while?"  Well there exists such a thing as in-state tuition, and in order to get that I have to live in-state (crazy!) for 12 months first.  I'm not terribly interested in being in debt for the rest of my life so eating the cost of moving sooner rather than later seems like a good fiscal choice.  Plus, you know, maybe I'll be able to save enough money for a freakin' kayak afterwards.

Anyway, it's nice to have a new major project to work on, and I'm excited for such a big change in my life.  First I have to stress out and panic about the whole process though!  A cross-country move is no joke but it is a nice adventure.  I'll be posting more about it once I have a plan of when to get there, and where I'll be stopping on the way.

Travel on!

05 March, 2016

Spartan Summit 2016

I am sitting here after midnight with my backpack packed and ready for an extended weekend on the Appalachian Trail. My father and I have right around 30 miles of the AT left within the Nantahala National Forest. This time we are bringing my little sister with us; it will be her first backpacking trip! The funny thing is I'm not here to talk about that. Last Saturday I ended up entering my first Climbing Competition at UNCG (the university I attend).

The past month-and-a-half I have climbed about as much as I had climbed in the past decade-and-a-half. It has been great! I decided to take things to the next level and enter the Spartan Summit, an annual Climbing Competition held each year. I was placed into the Beginner Division since I had limited climbing experience and it was my first competition.

Each division had four routes they had to climb (with Intermediate sharing one route with Beginner and sharing another route with Advanced). Each contested had three attempts per route. For each hold a climber reached in a controlled manner they earned 1 point. If the climber flashed (topped out on their first attempt) a route they would earn an additional 2 points. The competition was super fun and had a really relaxing atmosphere. To me it was mainly a great way for me to meet new people who share interests with me. Everyone was extremely encouraging of each other. I think it was the most fun I have ever had as a student at UNCG. This truly means something when you know how long I have attended!

During the competition I ended up getting to know the other Men Beginners really well. Everyone's climbing was super solid. I ended up flashing all my routes to earn a perfect score, but still only managed to win by 4 points. I struggled with our crossover route, the route we shared with the Intermediate Climbers. It was full of crimps down low and switched to pinches higher up with large gaps between holds. I remember being on the wall for what felt like forever. Twice I almost fell off, but managed to recover. The second time both of my feet slipped off the wall and one of my hands almost came completely off the wall. Reaching the top of that route was super gratifying.

I ended up trying the other Intermediate routes later in the week to see if I might have been able to compete with them. I was barely able to make it half way up the wall on the next easiest route before I fell off of it. It was still super fun and I look forward to improving my climbing technique. Even though I actually have already accomplished the Climbing Goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year I am looking forward to getting back to the wall after Spring Break is over.

What I walked away with!