Category: Blog (page 1 of 4)

The Day I Became A Thru Hiker

On September 25, 2016 at 5:45AM before the sun had risen I made my solitary ascent up Mount Katahdin, the final and foremost mountain of the Appalachian trail, the northern terminus. Once I stood upon the peak of this beast of a mountain my journey of over two thousand miles spanning the course of over 5 months would come to an end. Could this be real? Did I really hike that far? Did I really do all those things? HOW? These are questions that still to this day rack my brain constantly to this day.

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Katahdin

I pushed hard into the cold morning up Katahdin hoping for good weather and sunlight. As I began to make the ascent of this 4000ft climb, I was excited and tired and cold and confused. Prior to this day, I had pushed a viciously hard week through the 100 mile wilderness. I left Monson, the last town before the end, doing a 25 mile day, then a 22, then 38, following a 26, putting me right at the base of Katahdin. I felt like a zombie walking along with no understanding of what I was doing the night before this insane climb. I was absolutely beat, physically and mentally I was done. I left my friends behind in my final push understanding that it was time to finish this beast of a journey I had started and to finish it strong.

I hiked and hiked this never-ending climb and as I started to get above the tree line I noticed the weather getting much colder, and the wind gusts increasing without as I left the protection of the trees. I broke out of the trees completely and realized I was completely in a cloud and that this hike was getting much more difficult than expected. I started having to climb up and over these massive rock boulders. It was fun at first. I had always heard Katahdin was a challenging climb but took that challenge with excitement, until it got colder. Much much colder.

 

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As I made my way up and over boulders, climbing up the jagged side of Katahdin I start to become weary of the intense wind and the lessening protection I have against it. I would not lie to you that I have never experienced such strong winds in my life. I cannot say for certain how fast the wind was blowing that morning but I do know Katahdin typically sustains 45mph winds near the summit and the Park Ranger had let me know it was going to be a particularly windy day. Along such intense winds I start noticing that the rocks I am scrambling over have Ice on them. ICE. I figured I must be near the top so I did not think much of the worsening conditions. Unfortunately I was nowhere near the top.

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The wind seemed to only get worse and so did the ice. With these icy, windy conditions, I started to get extremely cold and my pace up the mountain was slowing as I battled these elements. I stopped behind a rock to add another layer to warm myself. I had to put dirty socks on my hands as they were going numb and I did not have gloves with me. I took out my phone to try to take pictures yet my phone shut off due to the cold. I was able to snap some photos with my camera but it was with great difficulty as my hands were growing increasingly numb. I kept on, excited and focused, up the mountain.

On top of Katahdin there is a flat area nearly a mile long before the final summit called The Tableland. As I reached The Tableland I found a sign which I couldn’t read because it had so much frost on it (Photo Shown Below). I found it hard to keep my composure on this flat land because the wind was throwing me around so much and the rocks were slick with ice. The icy wind scolded me and realized I needed to put on pants. I could spare this ridiculous detail, but all I was wearing at this point was tights and my junk was so cold I was cupping it with my hand to try to warm it up. I finally stopped and difficulty put on an extra pair of tights and my shorts. It is extremely difficult to do anything while it is so cold, and so windy, so this was not an easy task to do.

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The sign I could not read at the start of the Tableland

I began to feel fearful of my hike. It was one of the few times in my hike where I felt like I was falling apart and in a way felt like I had put myself in danger. I did not expect the extreme cold and wind I was going to experience along with the intensity of the climb. I couldn’t even drink water because my water bottle had completely frozen. Here I was, on the cusp of victory, after pushing one of the hardest weeks and I felt like the trail was literally giving me all it had. I pushed hard, I was going to make it to that sign if it killed me.

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I kept my head down and mostly covered as I slowly and carefully made the ascent up the final peak on Katahdin. After what felt like a lifetime I looked up and saw in the mist, THAT SIGN. The sign that has been on my mind every single solitary day since I began this hike. THAT sign that everyone knows. THAT sign that is the final marking for the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. I made it to THAT sign, in the windy, cold, frozen wasteland that was this mountain, after beginning my hike all the way from Georgia, a short 5 and a half months ago.

Upon catching the first glimpse of that sign I completely lost everything. Every emotion, every feeling, every experience that led up to this monumental moment came pouring out of me vigorously in a way I never expected. Tears bursted out of my eyes as I hiked the final steps to touch THAT dear sign. In solitude I kneeled before that sign and uncontrollably let it all out, I let out a scream at the top of my lungs. Everything that it took to get me here I let it all out. I was alone on Katahdin. I had won. I was standing atop the mountain that gave me its all but I fought back harder and I won. At that moment I became an Appalachian Trail thru hiker. At that moment, I was finished.

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-Mowgli (ColeB)

I’ll Just Leave This Here

 

Well hello everyone! I am dearly sorry for my absence of updates about my adventures on the AT but my life has been a whirlwind of an adventure lately.

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Fresh and clean at the beginning of my Thru Hike

So now I am going to do my best to summarize everything about my trip thus far. I am so excited to tell everyone about everything and I just want to say firstly that I am doing very well with the trail with only a few mishaps and changes. So brace yourself because this post may be fairly long as I do feel I have a lot to talk about.

OH.. and by the way I am writing this blog post from a hotel room in Hong Kong. Yes, Hong Kong. Let me explain..

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Little Hump in the Roan Highlands at dusk right before Virginia!

CURRENT PROGRESS on the AT: Mile 470, Damascus, Virginia

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The View from Spring Mt. at the start of my journey.

Before I get into the start of talking about the AT I will explain why I am in Hong Kong. I have not quit the trail but only taking a week long hiatus to do a job here and then in a few days I will go back to the trail and continue.

Brace yourself because this story is quite ridiculous and I swear to you its absolutely true. I will post lots of pictures to help break this up. OK here we go..

So about two weeks before I hit Damascus I received a message from a Canadian friend named Daniel whom I met when I was traveling in Puerto Rico earlier this year. He asked me if I would be willing to take a trip here in two weeks to help him shoot a video for a Chinese startup company. I was very confused but inquired more about the job. Everything was kind of confusing but the more I learned the more it made some sense. So, Daniel had completed a unique road adventure last year and made a really cool youtube video about it which I will link here. The Chinese company saw this video and an intern for the company contacted Daniel as they were looking for a unique youtube style video to showcase their new product Yoswit which is a smart home device.

This is my friend Daniel.

This is my friend Daniel.

I agreed to help him as I always love to seize any opportunities and as I continued to hike, it became more real. I thought it wouldn’t happen and it quite frankly sounded ridiculous to me that this was even real. I ended up getting a flight confirmation sent to me for Friday May 20th and at that point I realized I was actually going to China during my AT thru hike.

Now this is where things get complicated. I luckily had the help of my father to send me my clothes, camera gear, and most importantly passport so I could go on this trip. The package was guaranteed by UPS to arrive in Damascus on Thursday the day before I had to leave. I planned to hike into Damascus on that Thursday, pick up my package, shuttle to a hotel near the Tri Cities airport in Tennessee and be on my way.

The Day before I got to Damascus I got a call from my friend Sullivan Van Way who was road tripping around the area and asked me where I would be on Thursday. I told him I’d be in Damascus and that we could meet up and he agreed. He also agreed to take me out to the airport to save myself from getting a shuttle which was even better. I was hiking very strong into damascus. I was doing 20-30 mile days and my body was definitely hurting as I hiked into Damascus on Thursday morning. Sullivan met me on the trail at the last three miles with donuts in hand for me which was a pleasant trail magic. It was so crazy seeing someone from back home after being in the woods for a month and a half. I reunited with him and introduced him to my hiking friends. We spent the day riding bikes and hanging out until my package was supposed to arrive. Well my package never arrived and after a lot of confusion and frustration with UPS whom my Dad spent hours on the phone with while I didn’t have service I was let known that my package with my passport was misplaced in New Orleans and that it was on a semi truck somewhere in Alabama on the way to Roanoke Virginia. Now as you can imagine receiving news like this when you have a flight and obligation to be somewhere was a nightmare.

I tried not to panic as I was thinking of any possible solution to this problem but no resolve was coming to mind. I came up with the best idea I could which was to drive to the UPS sorting facility in Roanoke and try to speak with someone there about it. Long shot yes, but I had to do something. Sullivan and I got in the car and left for Roanoke. After a 2 hour car ride we finally found the facility. I quite literally walked up to the security booth for the facility and started telling the security guard my story. He pretty much looked at me like a crazy person and then told me he would call someone. I was able to speak to a manager there who “looked into” my situation. He basically didn’t help at all and simply told me my package was on its way and that there was nothing they can do. For the record UPS is a piece of shit in my book now. We spent so much time trying to resolve the situation and they did not help at all. I will never do business with them again if possible.

Honk Kong Skyline

Honk Kong Skyline

Defeated, me and Sullivan checked into a nearby hotel to get some rest. Now things get more complicated now. On top of all of this I was having a great deal of pain in my left ankle. I ignored the pain through all the craziness I was going through because I simply thought it was from the excessive hiking I had been going through. Upon arriving at the hotel I find out that my ankle was completely swollen and infected from a sore I had acquired on my ankle. Holy hell its like the day just kept getting worse. I’m missing a flight to Hong Kong and now regardless of that I have a major foot injury.

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the Staph on my ankle

Sullivan took me to an Urgent care facility first thing in the morning where I found out I had a MRSA staph infection. I had to have the infection cut open and drained. The whole experience was very painful and now my foots so traumatized I can hardly walk. I have no idea whats going on with the Hong Kong trip or what will happen but my friend Daniel took his flight like normal. He let me know they would try to reschedule my flight which was great and all except the fact that I now have a serious infection on my ankle and can hardly walk. I was extremely defeated and discouraged at this point as we drove back to Damascus. I got my stuff and checked into the woodchuck hostel to try to regain my composure. Sullivan went home and I appreciate him so greatly for all his help.

Me with my good buddy Taylor whom I met in Africa last summer who lives in Hong Kong.

Me with my good buddy Taylor whom I met in Africa last summer who lives in Hong Kong.

Long story short, the next few days were a waiting game to see if my foot would heal and if they were going to reschedule my flight. My foot healed fast as I took it easy and with the generous help of my Aunt Kim who guided me with how to handle it, I was able to be cleared for flight. The company, Yoswit, that I was going to shoot the video booked me a last minute flight, and now I am in China.

Crazy right? Yea. I know. 

OK

So thats the current situation. Now I’ll talk about the trail!

These are my great friends Headshot (middle) and Chaco. We hiked for about 3 weeks together until I broke off and started doing my own thing! They are amazing people.

These are my great friends Headshot (middle) and Chaco. We hiked for about 3 weeks together until I broke off and started doing my own thing! They are amazing people.

So the trail before that situation has been going really well. From the beginning I’ve really been loving my experience and adjusting into this new life. The Appalachian trail thus far has been a refreshing chapter of my life. Everyday I wake up and hike. Thats it really. I’ve been so fortunate so far to have some absolutely incredible experience and make some lifelong friends. The Appalachian trail has been an unexpected series of emotional and physical ups and downs. Some days are hard physically. Some days I have solitude and some are social. But everything, to me, is just perfect.

Headshot and Chaco sitting by a dark misty campfire.

Headshot and Chaco sitting by a dark misty campfire.

I was very fortunate my first few weeks with weather. Although it was very cold in the beginning, It was nothing I couldn’t handle as I had my 19F degree bag and my +14F reactor fleece liner by Sea to Summit. I was kept toasty in below freezing weather but the cold made it hard to function in the mornings and evenings. As I entered the smokies I started to come across some of my first days of bad weather which I’ve learned is not the most fun experience when its cold. The past couple of weeks before I got hurt and came to China have been extremely rainy. Almost every day seemed to have a chance of rain. Hopefully upon my return the weather is expected to be warm for good. Im not sure if I am ready for the hot summer yet but being wet and hot is a hell of a lot better than being wet and cold.

LIFE on the AT

So life on the AT has been good. My average day consists of waking up around 7am when the sun rises and going to sleep around 9pm (hiker midnight they call it). I usually wake up and have some pop tarts for breakfast then pack up my gear and get ready to go. As you can imagine my days consist of a lot of walking. I usually take a view of how my day will look elevation wise using my AWOL guidebook and roughly plan what springs I will stop at for water and such. If I notice that there is a big mountain I have to climb in the middle of my day I will plan accordingly to prepare for a tough climb.

My Tarptent Notch, My home!

My Tarptent Notch, My home!

I usually break a few times a day for snacks and water and the occasional breathtaking view or to talk with people I meet or see. I eat a lot of peanut butter and tortillas for lunch typically and sprinkle in tons of snacks like goldfish, skittles and honey buns(honey buns are everything). In the evening depending on my mileage goal for the day I will pick a suitable campsite, typically near a shelter on the trail with a good water source to stay the night. I mostly always tent. Depending on who’s at the shelter or how the weather is typically people will make a fire and hangout before bed as they eat there food and prepare to hang their food up in trees so bears cannot get them. Some nights are not so glamorous. Some days are rough. Some days are great. You are always dirty and its hard to stay clean. You are also always exhausted. Even when your legs are conditioned to hiking everyday they will feel sore. It never gets easier because the more experienced you get the harder you push yourself. Mentally its a challenge. The thought of the size of the challenge I am attempting is huge. I’m now starting to realize after having my first real injury that there is a lot, a whole lot that can go wrong out there. There are a lot of reasons people get pulled of the trail. I’m feeling strong and confident however. Im in it to win it and I’m very happy I chose to do this.

Trail Magic

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My first Trail Magic. These guys were waiting at woody gap with pancakes cooking for me. I was so shocked that this was real.

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Snacks and drinks!

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Dave and Joyce gave us wonderful Trail Magic before we got to Gatlinburg in the smokies!

Trail magic is this insanely beautiful thing quite unique to the Appalachian trail. Trail Magic is when kind hearted individuals who have hiked before or have an appreciation for hiking show their love by paying it forward. I remember I came to woody gap, a popular road crossing near the beginning, and I was starving ready to eat lunch.  I saw a group of guys who called me over and asked me if I wanted pancakes. It was heaven and I couldn’t believe that people did this on the trail.  I completely understand the point of trail magic now. You pay it forward, and then the trail provides for you. It always provides.

THESE GUYS WERE SO AWESOME! Lost Leslie, Two-tone and company!

THESE GUYS WERE SO AWESOME! Lost Leslie, Two-tone and company!

GEAR

Lets talk about gear because thats always fun. Ive made some big changes to what I am carrying. Since I have started I have sent back various items including my winter gear, rain pants, physical awol guide, journal, and a few other small items. This has decreased my weight dramatically as well as I switched out backpacks. I gave into the allure of a nice Ultra light backpack and purchase a Zpacks arc haul backpack (25oz backpack vs my 2.25lb backpack) so my pack weight has significantly decreased. Ive also upgraded to Black Diamond Apline Carbon Cork light trekking poles as the ones I had pretty much crapped out. Im considering a summer quilt but unsure if I want to make that investment. Other than those things my original gear list was fairly solid. Ive been happy with most everything and there technically wasn’t anything wrong with my old backpack.

Zpacks Arc Haul backpack. 25oz

Zpacks Arc Haul backpack. 25oz

Sorry this post was so belated and I hope everyone enjoyed to hear my current update. If anyone every has any questions please just ask me!

Just a bunch of hikers drying out our gear on top of a mountain and taking a break.

Just a bunch of hikers drying out our gear on top of a mountain and taking a break.

Also the best way to follow me on this adventure is my Instagram: colelbrian and my Snapchat: Colebrian. There is no L in the snapchat. I post on both of those apps very frequently.

Thanks for checking in guys 🙂

Oh by the way I forgot to mention my trail name I have been given is Mowgli. SO theres that!

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You’ve got to be wild to get the name Mowgli

-Mowgli

The Day Has Finally Arrived

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The sky this morning as we left Louisiana

Well this is it. I am sitting at the Hiker Hostel in Dahlonega, Georgia with my Dad, sleepily writing this post. My pack is packed, I have all of my food necessary (I think), and all I really have to do is hangout until the morning.

I was fortunate enough to be able to spend some time with my Dad as he agreed to bring me up to the trail from home. We came a day early because he had to do something for work here. So last night we stayed in a La Quinta in Georgia and today we came out to this hostel near the start of the trail. Since we had plenty of time today we stopped at an REI in Northern Atlanta and then me and my Dad decided to go hike a beginning portion of the Appalachian Trail. You see a little over a year ago me and some friends of mine decided to come out to the AT for a 3 day weekend and we came right up near here to an area close to the start. So Since I have been on it before me and my Dad went for a quick walk just for fun. The weather has a slight chill to it and the views are nice. Im starting to get quite excited thinking about what I am about to undertake. Yet at the same time I am not even quite sure if I have processed it yet. Its all kind of crazy.

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My Father and I on the AT

Well tomorrow I start my adventure. Thanks to all my friends and family who have been supportive of this. I appreciate you dearly. I will update you guys soon. Peace.

-ColeB

My Last Day of Work

Well things are really starting to get serious now as I just finished my last day of work. The AT is so close I can’t believe it and it feels like everything is going in slow motion honestly. As much as I have to do I can’t seem to do anything but sit still and think. Its like my brain is just trying to process all that is happing and trying to understand the choices I’ve made and whats going to happen next week when I start the trail.

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The countdown hit zero today.

Leaving work was not easy. I have worked at Contrast Films for exactly a year and quite simply its been the best job I have ever had in my life. The lessons learned from Chase, Jordy and Adam at Contrast are invaluable and I will take the wisdom learned with me wherever I go. Chase and Jordy (my bosses) never really felt like bosses truthfully. They felt like great friends and mentors. I can’t explain how refreshing it is to have that in a job. I got to work with people I truly loved.

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“Thanks for Nothing” How fitting is that?!

They gave me a lovely and delicious cake which we ate while viewing my documentary about our Road trip back in December. SO this past January the team at Contrast bought a Mercedes Sprinter van From Bellingham, Washington (north of Seattle) and we road tripped it back to Baton Rouge over the course of 6 days. LOTS of driving was done. I filmed the whole journey and made a little documentary about it. Which I will link right below. It was an incredible experience and Id love for you to check it out!

Well things change and my adventure awaits. Tonight I will have a last minute going away party with my family and friends. I look forward to everything except for the goodbyes.

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Farewell Contrast

-ColeB

Gear List Update #1

So I just wanted to make a quick update on some changes and additions I have made on my gear. I have had some very helpful feedback from people over on the r/Appalachiantrail subreddit on Reddit regarding my gear. This is also going to be a my first test post from my cellphone to be sure that I will be able to properly post updates while along the trail. 

So things I won’t be bringing anymore: 

Kindle– I’ve decided if I want to read I’ll use the kindle app on my phone and it’s not necessary to bring a whole separate device for that. 

Hard drive– The plan was to bring a hard drive with me and dump footage along the way when I could find a computer. However after some helpful advice I’ve decided to leave it behind and purchase extra SD cards which I will mail home when full and have mailed back to me after they have been dumped.

Tyvek tent footprint– This was going to be added protection for my tent as he material seemed very fragile however it was noted that this was an unnecessary precaution and that if I am sure I don’t place the tent on any sharp rocks or sticks in the first place I should be fine. 

Things I’ve added:

Deuce of Spades trowel (for digging holes to poop in (yes that’s something I’ll have to do..)) 

Lost Horizons Beanie

Smartwool Tech liner gloves 

128gb SD card

Dr Bronners Soap – for cleaning of course.

So after weighing my pack without consumables (water, gas, and food) my bag weights 20lbs 4oz. My pack with camera gear included is 23lbs 10oz. Consumables typically add 10lbs of weight when fully stocked so I can expect to be carrying approximately 33-34lbs throughout the trip barring any major changes. 

  
Hope you guys enjoyed the list and the update. 12 work days left and April 8th is coming quicker than I can imagine!!!

-ColeB 

My 2016 AT Thru Hike Gear List

Hello all. Today I want to list all of the gear I will be carrying with me on the trail coming up soon. I pretty much have 99% of everything I will need for the trail and am mostly ready to go. Since I have less than a month left until my start I figured I’d make a post as such in case anyone was curious as to what I will have with me. Researching and purchasing gear has been a whole lot of fun in the past 6 months of planning for me. Having to learn why I would need this and what I would do with that has all been part of the adventure I’m about to embark on.  I am posting a video at the bottom of this post which will be a visual guide to the gear I am bringing. The video is a bit lengthy but will go into detail of the items at hand.

Well this is it! All of the gear!

THE GEAR

Tent: Tarptent Notch

Backpack: Osprey Atmos 50 – link is to new model. I had the older model. Very similar however.

Front Pack: Zpacks Multi Pack – This will be attached to the front of my backpack on my chest to hold my camera gear.

Sleeping Bag: REI Igneo 19F bag

Sleeping Pad: Thermarest Pro-lite plus

Cook system: MSR pocket rocket stove

Cookware: GSI pinnacle Soloist pot w/ Light My Fire Titanium spoon/fork

Water Filtration: Sawyer squeeze + Aquamira as backup

Headlamp: Black Diamond Spot

Trekking Poles: REI Traverse Power Lock Cork Poles

Shoes: Salamon Speedcross 3

Baselayer Tops/bottoms: Patagonia Capilene top / REI midweight tights bottoms

Mid-Layer: Patagonia Nano Puff

Jacket: Columbia Titan Pass Fleece 2.0

Rainwear: Patagonia Torrentshell  top / Result Core Waterproof Over Trousers for bottoms

Shirt: REI Tech T-shirt

Shorts: Patagonia Baggies – Similar to a running short or swimsuit style shorts

Pants: Bluffworks Chinos – Synthetic/comfortable/stylish

Socks: Darn Tough Quarter Length Wool Socks

Underwear: ExOfficio synthetic 

Gloves: Not Yet Determined

Hat: Kavu hat

Camp Shoe: Teva Original Sandal

Stuff Sacks: (2) Kelty Compression sack, (1) Medium, (1) Large  / (2) Ditty bags for odds and ends (putting loose stuff such as first aid in these)

Food Bag: Zpacks Cuben fiber bear bag

Tent Footprint: Tyvek custom cut sheet (used to keep bottom of tent safe from rough terrain) – Purchased from Zpacks.

First Aid/Misc:

External Battery Pack: PowerAdd Apollo2 10,000 Mah pack

Camera Gear:

  • Panasonic GH4
  • Panasonic 12-35 2.8 pro lens
  • Joby Gorillapod (tripod)
  • Videomic Micro shotgun microphone
  • (4) Batteries
  • (4) 64GB SD cards
  • Charger for Batteries
  • SD card protective case
  • 1TB external hard drive used for dumping footage on when and if a computer becomes available.

Luxury Items: I will be bringing my iPhone, a Kindle for reading, and a leather Journal for documenting my experience.

Well I believe that’s all of it. Hope you guys enjoyed seeing what I will be packing with me. I’ll keep you guys updated as my trip nears the start! The excitement is unbearable!! Here is the video:

-ColeB

Appalachian Trail Specifics

Hey I just wanted to make a quick post this morning elaborating on the details of my upcoming trip. I know I can be vague and quite distant sometimes in my posts but this will hopefully help.

So as I mentioned a couple posts back I am attempting a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail. I will be starting this attempt on April 8th at Amicalola Falls State Park in Northern Georgia. Amicalola Falls is where I will begin but it is an 8 mile hike to get to the official start of the Appalachian trail. This is called the approach trail. I am going to be hiking Northbound or NOBO as I will call it. Hiking NOBO is the most common method in which to thru hike the AT. Some people hike Southbound (SOBO) and some just hike it in random sections until the hike is complete. I will be hiking NOBO with the intent of reaching the finish of the trail on Mt. Katahdin in Maine.

My last day at my job will be on April 1st. Then on April 7th my Dad has agreed to drive me up to Amicalola Falls where we will spend the night and in the morning of the 8th my adventure will begin. Time will fly even though I have a bit over a month left at my job. Every day I question myself wondering what I am doing or if I will be able to undertake this adventure. But I am doing this for my own personal reasons and I know I can accomplish this task. I am in it to win it.

I will be posting more frequently on the blog so any friends and family or just anyone who want to follow my adventures get ready for more weekly posts. I will soon make a post about the gear I will be bringing with me and will explain things in greater detail.

Add me on Instagram: colelbrian , if you would like, as its the best way to more frequently follow what I will be doing by photographs.

Okay later guys! Ill check in very soon and talk about gear!

-Coleb

I Turned 22 in Peurto Rico!

Boarding the Plane to Puerto Rico

Boarding the Plane to Puerto Rico

So last this past week I got back from a trip to Puerto Rico with two of my friends Luke Galbo and Louis Kobetz. We wanted to take a trip to go skiing in Utah with some family but after realizing the cost of a ski trip would be greater than anticipated and the chances of an injury from skiing before I undertake my hike in April  would be a possibility we decided it would be best to change plans. The idea to travel to Puerto Rico came about when I threw out the possible ideas of visiting central/south america as the flights are cheap but my friends did not have passports. Since Puerto Rico is a territory of the USA we were able to travel there passport free thus why we chose this destination.

Luke and Louis in the Hostel Courtyard

Luke and Louis in the Hostel Courtyard

It was a short trip but great trip put quite simply. We stayed in the capitol city San Juan at the Mango Mansion hostel through our four night stay and made many experiences and friends during the short stay. I must say I was sad to come home as the trip had me itching to travel again. It really was a tease but I look forward to my upcoming adventures which will begin in about 6 weeks!

The trip was very different for me as it was the first trip I have ever taken like such and not been solo. I really enjoyed my time with my friends and wouldn’t have changed it for anything but the trip definitely made me realize how special solo travel is to me. Having that utmost independence with choice is a very unique experience that I want to continue to have.

A cove in Northern Puerto Rico guarded by huge rocks

A cove in Northern Puerto Rico guarded by huge rocks

There was one or two times where I contemplated going off on a separate journey with some hostel mates I made simply because I wanted to be free and try new things but I ultimately decided that since I came with friends I was going to keep it that way. I don’t think I would’ve regretted any of the decisions I would’ve chose. I definitely try to make the most out of any circumstance I am in as most people probably do therefore choosing to stick with my buds worked out great. We honestly had a lot of laughs and a lot of invaluable experiences and its something I think us three will carry with us for the rest of our lives and have as a bond.

The beach in San Juan

The beach in San Juan

SO what did we do?! Well I’m glad you asked. Before I get into what we did, I have to tell about how my friend Louis nearly lost his laptop and other valuables at the start of the trip. So when we flew into the airport at San Juan we were a mix of tired and excited and ready to see what this place was all about. We got a taxi for $21 to our hostel and upon arriving we were welcomed by a friendly volunteer who started to check us in. Louis all of a sudden says “I left my bag in the taxi” with a very ghostlike face. In all of the excitement he forgot to grab his backpack out of the backseat which was carrying very valuable items. SO now his bag is driving around with a taxi driver who hardly could speak any english at all and we had no way of contacting him. After grabbing some food and trying to calm Louis down (not that he was freaking out) , Louis called another taxi to take him to the airport so he could try to talk to the company we got the taxi from. Luckily for us the taxi driver who picked us up was the coolest guy named Eric who after hearing our story was on the case to helping us find the bag. He was calling his friends and speaking to other taxi drivers trying to find the driver. We finally got a lead and got the suspected drivers number who claimed to have the bag. We told him to bring the bag back to the hostel and he agreed but said it would take an hour. Louis waited patiently at the hostel hoping he wouldn’t be having to buy a new laptop while Luke and I decided we would go check out the beach. I got a call from Louis and the bag was RETURNED! I must say I did not think he would get that bag back at all. It was a huge relief for all of us especially Louis as losing items like such can really be a downer for a trip. SO thats that story.. now on to what we did, ill keep it brief. 

We found a field by the beach and had a session

We found a field by the beach and had a session

We hung out on the beach in perfect 80F degree weather. We bought a soccer ball and juggled and played endlessly which was probably the most fun thing for us as we all really enjoy soccer. We went out probably every night we were there and the first night being the most interesting. We went to a Salsa bar, and no not one that has chips and salsa, with some friends we just had made at the hostel in San Juan and watched people dance! I gave it a go, just for fun, and boy was I terrible. I am definitely glad I did it though. We watched the Super Bowl on Sunday in a small bar with some friends and had lots of raw conversation about different cultures and ideas. On my birthday we took it easy for the most part and then Luke and Louis made a very kind gesture by taking me out to eat at a nice Italian restaurant. A polish girl we befriended named Paulina joined us on this dinner and it was full of a lot of laughs and a good time. We went out for my birthday with some Norwegian girls and some other people and ended up all chilling on the beach listening to music. The next day we rented a car and took a road trip with a swedish girl name Mikaela who was an incredible wild child. We visited beaches and had late lunches and jumped from 30 foot waterfalls in the middle of the rainforest.

Gozalandia Waterfall in San Sebastian

Gozalandia Waterfall in San Sebastian

Long story short the trip was one for the books and I hope to have many more that were so rich with good people and good times. Turning 22 in Puerto Rico wasn’t that bad. 🙂

-Cole Brian

The Crew, Luke, Louis, Mikaela

The Crew, Luke, Louis, Mikaela

New Adventures on the Horizon

Im currently sitting in the car in the middle of a thirteen hour drive to the small town of Memphis Missouri where I will be visiting my two remaining great grandmothers for the first time since I was a kid. I haven’t posted much on the website, mainly because I haven’t been gone, so I guess I haven’t had too much to talk about lately. That is all about to change. 

So heres the deal. I’ve got my feet wet with travel after my trip in Europe last year which opened up my whole world to travel and this past summer when I went to Africa I had a renewed sense of wanderlust with a great passion. Life can be complicated sometimes because we have so many options every single day, which can lead to so many different paths. After a lot of time to myself pondering how I want things in my life to play out I’ve realized a few things and made some actions which I will reveal to anyone interested in reading this today.


 

Before I start I would like to say I’ve been putting in a lot of work to my youtube channel making various videos along with a weekly video series I have enjoyed cScreen Shot 2015-11-29 at 8.55.57 AMreating called The Show w/ ColeB. Currently I am working with some amazing people at a video production company called Contrast Films in Baton Rouge. They have mentored and inspired me to really embrace my passion for filmmaking so thats what I have been doing and I have decided to take filmmaking a lot more seriously. Meaning from now on I am going to put a lot of effort into documenting future adventures through my creative eye. So I’d love if you guys enjoy reading my blog to also check out my youtube videos I am currently and will be producing.


 
So my plans..

ATlogotunica

Next year, around the beginning of April I will be setting out on a great adventure. I will be attempting to thru hike the Appalachian Trail. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this, thru hiking essentially means hiking the entirety of the trail within a period of 12 months. appalachian-trail-mapThe trail is approximately 2289 miles long starting in northern Georgia and ending on Mt. Katahdin in Maine. It spans 14 states and I’m estimating it will take me 5-6 months to complete. This will be a huge undertaking and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be doing this.

A few years ago I learned about the Appalachian Trail through a random internet post. I thought it was insane that a trail could be so long and that people would hike the whole thing. I quickly disregarded the idea thinking it was absolutely absurd. Granted this was all before I became the traveler/adventure seeker I am today. The idea came back to me recently and it wouldn’t escape my mind. I had to do it. I had to prove to myself that I could commit to something such as carrying almost everything you need to survive on your back through the woods across America. I firmly believe it will be the trip of a lifetime and teach me important lessons about patience and endurance.

I will not be planning on returning after this journey, if only for a brief moment to collect myself. I can’t say for certain what I will do after this hike for it is too soon for me to know. But I do know I am ready to leave Louisiana and create a new life. I don’t know all the details and I’m not too worried about it right now. Im just happy Im doing this and excited about life and am appreciative of anyone who may read this.

Thanks guys. Ill be posting more Trail specific posts in the near future.

Zanzibar and the End of This Adventure

Well everyone. I’m now finally able to take the time to talk about the latter part of my trip and whats next. I am back home in the US now enjoying the luxuries of first world life, although I’d kill to be back in Africa any day. No I didn’t hardly ever have a hot shower, and I’m not really going to explain how the bathrooms were at times, but I was seeing new things and having new experiences that were so incredibly perfect. Nothing I can say can really show the true story of how my time in Africa was and how being in Kenya and Tanzania felt like.

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Saying goodbye to Dar es Salaam

 

To update, I traveled with my dear friend Liv through Tanzania, starting from Nairobi to Arusha, then from Arusha to Dar es Salaam before taking a ferry to Zanzibar. Tanzania, in comparison to Kenya, was a lot less in your face and more chilled out. It was less busy and you didn’t feel like people were always coming up to you asking for things there. It may very well have had to do with my personal experience but Tanzania had a much more relaxed vibe than Kenya which in some way was a relief, and in another I missed the crazy business and intensity of Nairobi. It was exhilarating to be on a busy crowded street knowing you needed to get on a Matatu to Kamangu, and you had no idea whatsoever what Kamangu looked like or where it was, and you didn’t want to pay more than 50 kenyan shillings for the ride, and you never really know if the matatu you were being ushered on was the right one as it would just be a bunch of kenyan guys yelling Kiswahili at you and such. It always seemed to work out though, it always works out.

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Liv chilling on a boat at low tide in Zanzibar

Zanzibar was an absolute paradise Island. I don’t know how else to explain Zanzibar other than tropical paradise. From my experiences in life to date it was the closest thing I have ever been to Paradise, but it was primarily because of the experiences I had.

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I mean look at this place!

 

When we arrived in the beautiful Stone Town of Zanz we set off to the east coast for a village called Paje which pretty much became my home for two weeks. I ended up staying in Zanzibar for longer than I planned… what can I say? Why not? Anyhow, me and Liv arrived at the hostel where in the rooms the floor was sand. Never have I experienced something like this and we were so excited.

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Walking through the streets of Stone Town.. Look carefully at the pic

A summary of my two weeks was basically, meeting friends, going on adventures, laying on the beach, playing volleyball a lot, swimming, and partying a little.. It was a dream. I miss the coconuts dearly that I would pay about 30 cents for to refresh myself after a long day of laying out in the sun. But seriously I highly recommend anyone to travel to Zanzibar. Its a really cool place and a lot larger of an island than some may realize with over 1.5 million locals living there!

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Liv and Byron (a friend from South Africa) enjoying the fire on the beach

 

So me and Liv quickly made many great friends in Zanzibar and ended up staying in a locals rent house in the village of Paje which was an interesting experience but the reason we did this is because it only cost us $9 US a night opposed to the $20 a night rate most hostels were giving. While staying at the house we would hang out at a place called Jambo Beach Bungalows which was a really cool place with a bar that was right on the beach. We made most of our friends there and it was only about a 5 minute walk from our house in the village.

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Our house in the village was so nice!

 

After eight days in the house I ended up moving to Jambo to snag a room that was situated above the bar which was on the beach for the next five days. It was probably the coolest room I will have ever stayed in in my entire life. I found this room due to making great friends with two dutch guys name Coin and Cash, who had booked the rarely rented out room well before the trip. Okay their names were Koen and Gijs, but their names were really hard to say and they sound like Coin and Cash so thats what we called them. They were leaving and I wasn’t so I talked to management and snagged this loft room above a bar all to myself. Liv decided to go back to Tanzania so I was solo again for a while until we would meet in Nairobi before our flights home. Its hard to travel with a friend for two weeks and then say goodbye. You become so close to them and they are with you almost every second of the day and then just like that they are gone.

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Friends Gijs and Koen on our way out to an Island.

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So basically I’m standing in the water from this view and the triangle above the bar was my window.

I think thats what makes traveling so great is the loss you encounter while traveling. You meet so many great people and have the experiences of a lifetime and make best friends, then they leave, and you leave and its over. Then it just becomes a distant memory and you wish you would’ve taken more pictures to remember the occasions. This may seem sad but its so true with traveling. The reason why this is great is because this great loss yields incredibly amazing experiences. The sadness of the loss shows you how perfect things actually were and how happy you were at the time. I consider myself fortunate to go through these emotions where I miss people who I only knew for 3 days as if I knew them for 3 years. Life goes on and theres always the hope and sometimes promise of seeing them again. It was hard to stay in Zanzibar so long because I met so many great friends who I had to see come and go during my time. I also had to leave the connection I made with that place and the friends I met towards the end of my trip.

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Me and my best Maasai friend Christopher

 

I made friends with a Maasai man named Christopher and we would run around parties and laugh at each other and jump around. I witnessed the Maasai perform a goat slaughter then proceed to drink the goats blood and cook it right on the beach. It wasn’t the best of meats. I also ended up playing a soccer game on a local sand court with local maasai people while me and a German named Andi were the only mzungus(white people) playing. I stand up paddle boarded through mangoes, snorkeled out in the reef, went on runs and adventure. It really was the coolest experience.

 

Me, Liv, Coin and Cash

Me, Liv, Coin and Cash about to snorkel

 

Anyhow, I am home now, and my mindset is much different. I was planning to go back to school this fall of 2015 but can now say Africa has inspired me not to. Im ready to leave Louisiana for good. I also am not sure what I want out of life so for now, while I am young, and maybe a little crazy, with a completely different and new mindset, I am going to get out there and live life to the fullest. Pretty soon Ill update my blog with whats next but I couldn’t be more excited.

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Thanks for listening guys 🙂

-ColeB

 

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