A Peak Performance to Give Urban Youth Options

From the Blog

Posted by bruce at 10:34 am

By God’s grace and tender mercies, we just summited Mount Katahdin at 9:42 this morning. We are exhilarated! It rained all night, but we had clear weather this morning. Coming up the mountain, we got into a fog bank, and we’re at the top of the mountain in that fog bank right now.

Mount Katahdin is a grueling climb, but we did it! We accomplished it—2,184 miles! We have completed our through hike. We have been hiking since March 17, through one state after another, and now we are finished! We are through hiking.

We look forward to seeing you at the post-hike celebration Thursday, August 16 at 7:00 p.m. at Allegheny Center Alliance Church for refreshments. The Urban Impact singers will perform, and we’ll give you some of our reflections at that time.

We appreciate your support and your prayers. This has been such a team effort. We have felt your support all along the way. We’ve done it with you as a fresh wind in our sails and with God’s strength and His presence with us each day. Thanks so much, and we look forward to seeing you all. God bless.

Posted by bruce at 1:56 pm

We made it to Monoson, ME! Tomorrow we enter the 100-mile wilderness for six days and come through it at the base of Mt. Katahdin to summit on August 10 (assuming good weather, good health, and all that stuff). This last stretch from Stratton, ME to Monson, ME has been our favorite. We climbed the Bigelow mountain range to enjoy spectacular views of Maine’s lakes, ponds, bogs, and ski areas. Then we descended the range to scurry around some of those lakes and bogs. I jumped in the water several times for a refreshing swim, and one evening we tented on the shore of Pearce Pond and watched the sunset on the opposite side. Awesome! Sadly, this is the same pond where just one month earlier a northbound through-hiker drowned when he jumped in the cold water for a late night swim and experienced debilitating cramps. Apparently, he hollered to his buddies but by the time they rushed to the shore line, he had gone under, and the dark night shrouded any chance of recovery. He was only 20 years old. A picture of him hangs in the lean-to, and we heard that his parents had spread his ashes on Mt. Katahdin.

As for us, we’re feeling strong but taking today to rest and pound some calories to prepare for the wilderness. Do you know how joyful it is to eat whatever we want, as often as we want, and NOT gain weight? But, alas, those days are coming to an end. We enjoy being thin, and we’re fearful that our appetites will not abate when we return, and we’ll end with waistlines the length of the AT.

Oh, we also saw our first moose as it splashed out of a stream across to the opposite bank. And, the most restful part of our hike has been taking the ferry across the Kennebec river in Caratunk. The ferry was actually a canoe paddled by an official ATC worker who ferrys hikers back and forth across the river. It was fun. Three days earlier, he had to rescue a hiker who attempted to ford the stream but succumbed to cramps from the cold water. We took no chances and enjoyed our little ride.

The next blog you receive from us will be after we summit Katahdin. We enter the 100-mile wilderness with seven days of food, and then we climb Katahdin which is a 4,000-foot elevation gain with some scrambling. Thank you for your prayers. We feel God’s presence with us. He has guided us and given us wisdom when we needed it. And don’t forget, August 16, 7 p.m. at Allegheny Center Alliance Church for the post-hike celebration where we’ll share our experience with you, receive your pledge commitments and enjoy some refreshments. We can’t wait to see all of you. The end is in sight.

Posted by bruce at 8:50 am

We’re back on the trail. We’re feeling a lot better, and we were able to get in some pretty good miles, so we appreciate everyone’s prayers.

We’re in Stratton, Maine—the 1,996-mile mark. Tomorrow we’ll cross over 2,000 miles! We’ve got to get to 2,184, so it looks like we’ll be done around August 10 or 11 and back in the Pittsburgh area somewhere around August 15 after spending a few days with my mom and sister.

We’ve really enjoyed the last few days of hiking. We’re starting to come across a lot of ponds, lakes, and streams as the terrain is changing. We’ve still done some tough mountain ranges, including Saddleback, which was just beautiful. We have a big mountain range to do today—Bigelow Mountain and Avery Peak. Then we descend down, and it really flattens out until we get to Mount Katahdin. We’re looking forward to the more level ground and coming across more ponds and streams.

We’re making good progress, and we’re looking forward to summiting Mount Katahdin—the highest mountain in Maine at 5,268 feet.

Urban Impact is in the process of putting together a post-hike celebration, and that’s going to be on August 16 at Christ Church at Grove Farm. I’m not sure of the time yet, but be on the lookout for an e-mail from Urban Impact with the details. As soon as I get more details, I’ll let you all know as well.

We’re going to continue to march on and get ‘er done! Thanks for your prayers. I’ll write an update when we get to Monson, Maine, which will be in four days.

Posted by bruce at 4:05 pm

We’re still in Andover, ME at the Pine Ellis Hostel. Yesterday, we decided to slackpack ten miles (carry only the necessities of the day because a shuttle would pick us up at the end of the day and we would return to the hostel.) Six miles into our hike, I started getting diareaha. We descended into Sawyer’s Notch and I took by backpack off to splash water on my face. At this point I was fighting off throwing up and the cool water offered some relief, but as I stood up I tweaked my back and could not stand upright. So here we are at the lowest point of the trail staring a steep climb out of the notch and I can’t straighten my back and I’m drooling ready to throw-up. Paula asked whether we should press the button on our emergency beacon for a helicopter pick-up but said I wanted to try to make it out. We had four miles to go including that monstrous climb. I prayed for God’s strength and was finally able to stand upright in pain. We started climbing and every step was painful and my energy was so drained that I literally would take one step and stop, another stop and drool, another step and wince. Well we made it out and back to the hostel where I collapsed in bed and proceeded to throw-up repeatedly. I have never felt so weak. Later in the evening, Paula got the bug and started throwing up in bed. Apparentely, there is a bug that hikers are getting somewhere between Gorham, NH and Andover, ME. Many have been sick and we were no exception. Today, I’m starting to feel better. I still have the sweats, but I’m eating. Paula has started to eat dry toast but isn’t moving much from bed. We’ll take tomorrow off as well and try to hit the trail again on Thursday. My back is still tender and I’m concerned about carrying a full pack on Thursday. We only have about 230 miles to go so we’re close but we need strength. Paula lost so much weight during this hike that she is quite frail and she just lost another five pounds going through the Whites. I had hoped that by slackpacking we could have a light day of hiking and then eat well to put on some weight, but instead we’re doing the opposite. Please pray for strength and perseverence. We’re determined to make it.

Posted by bruce at 3:09 pm

Just when I thought we had made it through the rough stuff we had to endure several more days that made the previous days seem like a cake walk in comparison. Apparently, we were not through the Whites as I boasted in our last blog. I learned that we had to scratch our way through the Carter Range starting in Pinkham Notch. We finally crossed over into Maine (Wahoo!) and headed into Mahoosuc Notch which boasts the most difficult mile on the AT — an amazing pit of boulders. It took us two hours to go one mile!! Once we made it through the Notch, we had to climb a vertical beast that pushed us down with monstrous gravity. We could not believe how difficult it was. And to think, this is self-inflicted. Right now, we are in Andover, Maine in a hiker hostel to resupply and rest. Our feet and knees are throbbing in rhythmic fashion, and we still have some difficult days ahead but the terrain will get better we are told. I promise, no more whining after today’s blog. We’re very grateful for our niece Nicole who helped us resupply early in the Whites and then when our water filter pump handle broke she got additional time off from work to meet us on the trail with the fix we needed. Thank you, Lord, for Nicole. Lately, we have talked on the trail about so many of you who have gone out of your way like Nicole to help us succeed. We are so grateful and humbled by your care. This hike has been a team effort all the way. Lastly, we still have not seen a moose though we did scare a weasel up a tree yesterday. Not quite the same as a moose.

Posted by bruce at 2:32 pm

We made it through the Whites! We’re in Gorham, NH resting in a hostel to beat some nasty thunderstorms coming through today and tonight. In the last week, we’ve climbed and clawed our way through the White Mountains of NH. We’ve endured our most difficult days of hiking so far. Yesterday, we summitted Mt. Washington and crossed the presdiential range in rain and winds of 30 mph. We loved the majesty and beauty of the Whites. If you’ve never spent time in these mountains, we highly recommend it. It is breathtaking. Our feet and knees are sore, but it was worth every arduous step. We haven’t seen a moose yet, but still hopeful. Today, at the Pinkham Notch visitor center as we waiting for our ride to the hostel, we overheard a worker telling a ranger on the phone that a bear had invaded a campsite and was attacking a bear box (steel box where food bags are stored) saying, “The bear has the box! The bear has the box!” Well, as for us, we have all of our food and have not encountered such aggressive bear activity so thanks for your prayers.

Posted by bruce at 7:50 pm

We’re well into the heart of New Hampshire. We just summited Mount Moosilauke, which is a 4,800-footer. It’s been a long time since we’ve summited a good-sized mountain; I think this is the first 4,000-footer we’ve done since Mount Rogers in Virginia.

We’ve been enjoying the crystal-clear, blue sky and beautiful weather. A high pressure system is giving us great visibility, and we made it to the summit of Mount Moosilauke at a good pace. We’re on our way down now, and it’s a precipitous drop-off. All the hikers coming in the opposite direction are saying it’s a difficult climb down.

We’re about a day away from Franconia Notch, where the Old Man of the Mountain used to be. This was a rock formation that looked like the profile of an old man, and it was a state symbol of New Hampshire until it collapsed in 2003.

We’re about six days away from Mount Washington if the weather holds up. We’re playing close attention to the weather; we’re not going to head into the Presidential Range in inclement weather.

We’re making good progress and are enjoying seeing family members as we head north. We’re looking forward to seeing our niece, Nicole, who is here doing a summer internship. She’s going to help us get into town and resupply.

Please keep us in your prayers. The mountains are definitely more difficult now that we’re in New Hampshire. We pray for all of you every morning, and we’re looking forward to being able to celebrate victory and to seeing you all probably in four weeks. We’re going to spend a few days at my mom’s house after we’re done, and then we’ll head home. God bless you all.

Posted by bruce at 7:19 pm

We’re in New Hampshire! We arrived in Hanover last evening. We’re at the 1,742-mile mark. We have 442 miles to go—fewer than 500 miles!

This is where the effort gets really, really difficult. There’s a saying that when you get to Hanover, New Hampshire, you’ve completed 80 percent of the miles but only 20 percent of the effort. So we’re taking a few days off to rest our bodies and re-supply. We need to get our winter gear back; even though it’s July, we need our winter gear to get through the White Mountains and into Maine. We have a lot of re-packing to do. We need to re-supply again and get three or four days’ worth of food. We’ll hit the trail again mid-morning on Monday.

We made it through Vermont, which we loved. Southern Vermont boasted beautiful ponds, bogs, and beaver dams. We even went swimming a few times. We got into ski country; we went over Stratton Mountain, Bromley Mountain, and Killington. We even sat on the chair lift in Bromley and took some goofy pictures, so we had a lot of fun with that.

Once you get up into Killington, Vermont, the trail takes a righthand turn and goes almost due east to get to Hanover, New Hampshire. Up until that point, it follows what is known as the Long Trail. Vermont has a trail that runs from Massachusetts up to Canada—right through the center of the state. It’s really popular. There are a lot of hikers on the Long Trail. Once the AT splits off at Killington and goes due east into Hanover, it’s a lonely trail with few hikers other than through hikers. It’s a beautiful trail—not all worn down, rocky and rooty. It’s a difficult trail with some ups and downs, but we enjoyed it thoroughly.

We’re going to rest up now and get ready for the big effort. We’re about five weeks from completing the hike. We’re starting to meet some “south-bounders” who started in Maine and are hiking down to Georgia, so we’re comparing notes as we pass each other, and they’ve been congratulating us for making it this far. We’re congratulating them for making it through Maine and New Hampshire!