Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Yes, Daddy is officially 30 tomorrow, and Mama totally surprised him this past weekend. Gigi and Grandaddy's house was full of family and friends for a fun Mexican themed party. Much thanks to all who made it happen!

Sydney and Abigail celebrated Memorial Day with family at the pool. The girls love the water and are great a blowing bubbles.

Friday, May 18, 2007

I found these pictures today on the camera that I use for work, and I was reminded how fun it is to be a dad. Since the weather has been nice over the past few weeks, we have hiked at the local parks with the girls on our backs. On this occassion, we brought our supper to eat after the hike. They seem to really enjoy it, and it gives Daddy and Mama a good workout! As a dad, I receive their precious "Iey-Yah-Yous" (I love you) before I go to work each day, which makes me look forward to coming home/picking them up each day!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

We would be remiss if we didn't thank Papa and Gramma for their help last weekend while Brad was away. In true grandparent fashion, they came with toys, a table and chair set, lots of hugs, and lots of love. Thanks again for giving up your time and energy for Sydney and Abigail.

Friday, May 11, 2007

I took a trip last weekend that I'll never forget - to the Havasupai Canyon (aka Havasu Falls Grand Canyon). A couple of buddies and I flew into Las Vegas, drove to the canyon, hiked the 12 miles to the three main waterfalls with backpacks, and out 12 miles in 4 days. I would suggest 5 or more days to truly enjoy the oasis that is Havasupai Canyon and to have ample time for napping and sunbathing and exploring. When the backpacking websites indicated the trip was strenuous, I had no idea. The heat and dust make the 2,000 foot climb out of the canyon a challenge. Of course, you can make it easier with helicopter access, pack animals to carry your stuff, a lodge for accomodations, and burgers at the reservation's restaurant, but then where would the success of overcoming the challenges be!?! I highly recommend this trip for the adventurous spirit. More pictures on flickr...

After the snow in Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area in April 1997, I enjoyed great weather through Central Virginia and the Shenandoah National Park in May. The Virginia section of the AT is the longest at 540 miles and is referred to as the land of the “Virginia Blues” because of the lack of state lines as goals. As a hiker courses through certain parts of the trail, the accomplishment of two or three states a month can be very motivating – not in Virginia. Also, VA is “flat” compared to the balance of the trail. The flat part is not completely accurate, but I did average more miles per day in Virginia than any other state.

On April 19th, I participated in my first “Lord’s Supper” with a fellow hiker. We were sleeping on the porch of the Mt. Rogers NRA Headquarters and woke to a beautiful morning with birds chirping and the sunshine warming our faces. Youngblood had started a southbound hike in 1996 and was about a month from completing his thru-hike. He was a jovial, older man with a long white beard and spectacles. Youngblood and I talked into the night over a large pepperoni pizza (order from a payphone at the HQ and delivered from Sugar Grove, VA!) and had so much in common. Youngblood was a wanderer like me and he professed his faith unlike anyone I had met on the trail so far. I hadn’t adhered to a rigid Bible study schedule or packed the extra Lord’s Supper accoutrements that I was used to at home – every Sunday. I did not worry about the actual juice and crackers because I had a connection to God at all times on the trail. The connection with my brother, Youngblood, was nice, but unfortunately he hiked south and I hiked north. I will never forget him.

Little did I know, but my uplifting experience with Youngblood would be helpful in upcoming conversations with another hiker. I hitchhiked into Sugar Grove to resupply, and as I was packing my bag, a car stopped next to me and asked if I knew the other hiker around the corner. I indicated that I wasn’t with anyone but asked why – they said that there was a hiker near the pay phone that was lying on the ground. I went around the corner and found Bomber passed out on the ground! He regained consciousness within a few seconds and indicated that he was okay – but he was still blue lipped and pale. I met Bomber the night before the “marathon” hike into Damascus – he was a professed atheist from Connecticut, very soft spoken, and a very fast hiker (he wanted to complete the trail in 4 ½ months). Bomber knew of my faith and, out of the blue, indicated that he could see himself being baptized and believing in Christ “when he got older.” He said that he wouldn’t want to die without somewhere to go. Bomber asked many interesting and probing questions on Christianity and, like all of us hikers, was searching. For instance, he theoretically asked if he could be baptized, not truly believing in God, and still go to heaven. After we shared a hotel room in Pearisburg on April 25, 1997, I didn’t see Bomber again. I hope that my Christian influence helped.

During my stay in Pearisburg, I had one of my worst experiences on the trail – sickness. This 24 hour period was the only time I was sick on my hike – one sickness over 6 months! I stayed in the Holy Family Hospice – read free hostel – after the hotel room with Bomber, and I was able to collect my thoughts in my journal, send postcards, and truly rest. I sent a postcard to a church friend and outlined my recent experiences and gastrointestinal troubles – after the next Sunday’s church service, this friend asked my parents, “So, is Brad out of the hospital yet?” They said, “Brad was in the hospital!?!” because I hadn’t informed them over the phone in Pearisburg that I was staying in a Hospice. I guess the friend thought the hospice was a hospital, and this was very disturbing to my parents. I am sure that my Mom’s heart skipped a few beats.

On April 28th, 1997, my journal entry foreshadowed a significant event: “I am on the same schedule and pace as Scooter and Wild Bore so I will probably be seeing them – they are here [Bailey Gap Shelter] tonight.” In fact, from this point on the three of us would be no more that a few days away from each other through the completion of our thru-hikes. Both Scooter and Wild Bore graduated from Dartmouth in 1993 and worked at consulting firms in D.C. from 1993 – 1997. They both planned to thru-hike the AT by August and go back to graduate school. Their thru-hike had a fund raising element to it as well. Wild Bore’s employer, Booze Allen, agreed to match any donations, dollar for dollar, from their thru-hike for the American Cancer Society. More on these guys and their story later…

I found out quickly that there were only a few ways to make a thru-hike any easier – drop pack weight, have someone else carry your weight (by sharing a stove or assisted with a car), or “slackpacking.” Slackpacking involves entrusting your backpack, your world, with a stranger with a car. This “trail magic” usually happens when other thru-hikers have family nearby, former thru-hikers live near by, or the general public likes helping these smelly, dirty, skinny and bearded hikers. This person with a car takes your pack to a destination further down the trail – another road crossing, the next town, etc. – and the hiker covers the miles without a pack! At first I was unsure if slackpacking fit in to my definition of a “purist.” The Appalachian Trail Conservancy defines a purist or thru-hiker as a "2,000-miler" as a matter of tradition and convenience. ATC defines a "2,000-miler" as anyone who has hiked the entire Trail between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Katahdin in Maine, and they don't consider issues such as the sequence, direction, speed or whether one carries a pack. They do expect that persons applying for inclusion in the 2,000-miler records have made an honest effort to walk the entire Trail. Good enough for me! I usually will tell folks that if a person that attempts a thru-hike has seen each of the white blazes on the trail, either southbound or northbound or flip-flop, they are official. May 1, 1997 was my first opportunity to slackpack and I took advantage of it. I met Southpaw, a 1995 thru-hiker, at a road crossing, and we hiked 6 miles without our packs!

Since this post is getting a bit long, I’ll revisit my Shenandoah stories with Wild Bore and Scooter at a later date…

Completed To Date: 62 days, 830.6 miles = 38.5% completed

Friday, May 04, 2007

We all had a good time at Jack's 3-year birthday party last weekend! The girls loved the sand table, the big ladder and slide on the play gym, the riding toys, and all of the toy dinosaurs! And Mama and Daddy were worn out just from watching.

You may think I'd forgotten that our family had a blog...that needed to be updated, but I didn't forget. Life busyness...what can I say.

I want to let everyone know - we are all doing great. Sydney and Abigail are talking more now - of course, we cannot understand what they are saying half of the time. These are fun time to be a parent, because we can ask them very complex or very simple questions and received the same answer every time..."No." This is the girls' favorite word - "Do you want more fruit?", "No", "Can we change your clothes", "No", "Do you want a snack?", "[silence with affirmative head nod]". So they do know the concept of "Yes"!

We have had a busy past month, but I cannot recall what we have been busy with. The girls have be on-again, off-again with runny nose/fever-type sicknesses. But they seem to be great today.I know that we had a great time with Brad's immediate family during the weekend of April 14th in the Smoky Mountains. We were able to explore a few trails with the girls on our backs, and we experienced the dynamic mountain weather, first hand. On one of the trails, the weather was sunny and 60 degrees at the trailhead, and less than an hour into our hike, it turned cold and began to rain. With the health of our daughters and their 7-month old cousin (Jack) in mind, we quickly turned around. The kids slept through it all and had no idea what had happened.

Sydney and Abigail are getting used to their toddler beds and are really enjoying the freedom the beds provide. At night, we will put them to bed and for the next 30 minutes to an hour, they will play, talk, sing, beat on their door, and jump on their beds. When the room gets dark, they will finally crawl into their beds and go to sleep. As long as they are not screaming, crying, or hitting each other, we don't mind one bit. Also, they have officially switched beds (sometimes) - Sydney will sleep in the bed to the right and Abigail in the bed to the right - who knows why...

We are coming up on the girls two year-old birthdays, and folks have mentioned the "Terrible Twos" to us. I think that we may have seen the willful, can't make me happy, do thinks to spite the parents stage already. Hopefully so - we realize everyday that we have been truly blessed with two wonderful daughters.