So Tell Me For True – Are You Guys For SCUBA?

One of my favorite movie scenes is from Along Came Polly when naked SCUBA Claude awkwardly invites the nervous honeymooners to an underwater party. He declares himself the unofficial SCUBA king of St. Barts and wants to show them the beautiful coral reefs underneath is sailboat. His big sailboat. Lisa, played by Debra Messing, is very much for SCUBA but her tightly wound New York husband Rueben, played by Ben Stiller, is unsure about the whole set up. He is right to be wary and catches Lisa in an affair with Claude which sends him back to the City where he meets and falls in love with Polly. Its a great scene and a fun movie but could I bring my own SCUBA party to New York?

Bryan and I recently moved to Harlem and got set up in our new apartment. As soon as I got into town, I went to visit the Adventure Scuba shop with my fresh dive resume and PADI Open Water Instructor license. They were very friendly and invited me to co-teach a class yesterday out in Long Island.

Here we go!

One of our goals in moving here was to simplify our lives and that meant getting rid of our car. Plus, it’s stupidly expensive and a huge headache to own a car here so I am learning to navigate around without my own wheels. Fortunately, New York is beautifully designed to get just about anywhere on bikes, trains and buses so here I go. I loaded up all of my gear on my back and headed first to the C train underneath our building towards Penn Station.

A car? Fahgettaboudit. This is New York!

Another thing that I love about New York is that nothing phases these people. A dude schlepping all of his SCUBA gear on the train didn’t raise an eyebrow. They just don’t care – but in the nicest possible way. You do your own thing here as long as you don’t get in anyone else’s way. Penn Station is just a couple of stops from our place and then I transferred to the Long Island Railroad for a pleasant ride east to the Lindenhurst station where I met my co-instructor Tom. We shared an Uber to the dive shop and did some last minute planning on what we wanted to cover. Our students were on time and eager to learn. The day went perfectly and we were able to get through of our skills with time to spare.

This was my first real teaching experience and it was awesome. The excellent training that my instructor Bruce laid down came out automatically. I demonstrated the skills, stated the values, gave positive reinforcement and corrected in real time. I swiveled my head like Linda Blair underwater. It’s so important to keep a close eye on all of the students and I chuckled to myself as I remembered Bruce’s Linda Blair reference from The Exorcist that he drilled into us during our instructor course. The best part of the day was when I slowed down the skills and spent extra time with each of them until I felt comfortable that they achieved mastery. It was so fun to see the three different learning styles come out in these students and to adapt to those on the fly. That is what makes this so interesting. Watching the light bulbs go on and watching their eyes get wide in their goggles when they nail the skill. Those first breaths underwater are so fun to watch and I left feeling so good about what I was able to pass on. I thought I liked diving but I think I like teaching it a lot more. I have the privilege of introducing a whole new world. 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water and I get offer that up. Sweet!

Happy students. Super happy instructor.

I was on Cloud 9 the whole way home. I found a path to do what I love in a city that I adore. I felt so relieved that the instructor course prepared me so well for this real life experience and in so many ways the learning has just begun. Now I get to let my joy for this sport come through in a way that helps others find all the happiness it has brought me. As I finished my last leg of the journey home and came up from the 110th Street train station, I was greeted by a great impromptu jazz ensemble right outside of our apartment. I stopped for a few minutes, left some money in the tip jar and soaked in the moment. This is why I wanted to live here. I made the right move after all.

Press Play

The City has been so kind to us so far. We love our place, Chuck and LD are happy and Bryan found a delicious Hungarian pastry shop around the corner that serves amazing hamantash. On the professional front, I start an exciting new job tomorrow as general counsel for Equitable Facilities Fund. It’s a lot of change all at once but it’s all very exciting and hopeful. This is what I wanted out of this year and it is coming together. I know we are all going through a scary time but there is a lot of good out there. Hang in there. Better times are coming.

Yowie Wowie – a Brand New OWSI

Bray Wyatt a/k/a “The Fiend” is a WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) favorite and he coined the phrase “Yowie Wowie.” He explained it as follows: “You ever have something so amazing happen to you that you couldn’t control what came out of your mouth next? Yowie Wowie!” I can’t think of a better way to describe how I felt after my last open water test yesterday and I found out that I was an official PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor. A real live OWSI! Yowie Wowie for sure.

The PADI Instructor Examination lasts 2 days and it is a nerve racking 48 hours for sure. On Saturday, we met the examiner in a hotel conference room in Santa Clara. The day starts with a pretty formal run through of all of the requirements and how and when we will have a chance to make up any portions that we might fail. There are a few gatekeepers in place that you just can’t re-do. If you mess up on the standards exams or make a really bad mistake in the water then you get to come back another day. After the introduction, we had 5 timed exams covering physics, physiology, the environment, dive equipment and decompression tables. These involve a lot of calculations and some pretty quick decisions that you have to make. Some of the questions are intentionally confusing and they are testing whether you really have instructor level understanding of equipment, how depth and pressure affects your body, air consumption and common dive injuries.

We all passed these exams and then were given a 50 question exam on PADI standards. You simply have to nail this one. If you don’t get a passing score then you have to come back and do all of the exams over at another examination. Fortunately, this one is open book. This makes sense though – if you don’t know how to find the basics like maximum student/instructor ratios and what the key elements are to certify a new diver you are putting lives at risk. I was happy to get a great score on this one too and then it was off to our classroom presentations.

Sure – looks pretty but cold as ice!

We were given about an hour to eat lunch and prepare a lesson assignment that we received that morning. We have to hit about 10 different components during the presentation to get a passing score. You begin by make a non-diving connection and getting interaction with the class, then you present the materials showing that you have mastery of all of the various electronic teaching aids that PADI provides. You also need to emphasize the environment, suggest equipment to buy, get the class interested in specific continuing education, use a PADI online tool, demonstrate using a non-diving training aid and then summarize, reinforce and close. It’s not that hard if you follow the formula that we were taught and I really like public speaking so this part is fun for me. I got a 4.8 out of 5 and was pumped by the score.

Knot tying practice. I think I tied the bowline knot 1,000 times during class!

We then headed over to Diver Dan’s about 10 minutes away for the confined water presentations. The pool at Diver Dan’s is small and hot as heck and I was already pretty nervous so it was uncomfortable. I just stuck to my deep breathing and got through the skill circuit in good shape. The examiner had us do the following underwater skills – mask removal and replace, fin pivot buoyancy, regulator recovery and clear, remove and replace scuba kit and CESA (controlled emergency swimming ascent). She had us do these one at a time and we were being watched by the other six students in the exam. It went great and I got a score of 23 out of 25 and was really happy with that. Not sure where I got dinged and I frankly didn’t care. I only needed an 18 to move forward and I was there! After these demonstrations, we each had to teach a skill in the pool with two pretend students. The instructor also assigns problems to the students to screw up some component on purpose to see if you can correct it before they get too far ahead of themselves and risk getting injured.

Ike – our OWSI class mascot

My skill was to teach a controlled five point descent without touching the bottom. I fortunately caught both of my students’ mistakes (one of them tried to go underwater without their regulator in their mouth!) and was able to correct it early and have them re-do the skill. I got a 4.8 out of 5 on this one and was feeling pretty wonderful as I drove back down to Monterey that afternoon. I grabbed a quick dinner, prepped my gear for the next day a then went over my slates for my open water test the next morning at 7AM. For the open water, I got to do alternate air sharing (stationary) and teaching a knot skill underwater. Those are both pretty easy and I banged them out smoothly with scores of 5 out of 5 on both! I’m so glad it went well because I was freezing in the cold water and tensing all of my muscles to keep myself from shaking. As soon as we were all done, the examiner let out a little “Woo Hoo” yell through her regulator to let us all know that we passed those two skills. Ever seen a bunch of nervous divers let loose under water? It was awesome. We all high-fived and did little dances to celebrate. What a great release.

We just had one more skill to demonstrate – rescuing an unconscious diver in the water. This involves turning the victim over, establishing buoyancy, giving rescue breaths, removing all equipment (victim and rescuer) and towing them to shore. We had practiced this so many times during the course that these were damned near perfect. Or at least they felt that way. Smooth, slow and demonstration quality. We all felt so accomplished with this skill and it was a blast to show off a little. We did our debriefings with the instructor back on shore and then received our completion certificates. After we got cleaned up, we headed back to the dive shop for pizza and some nice chill time with the examiner.

Ike’s friend Minky. Minky lives in Florida but was out in California for a nip and tuck. Seriously.

This was a hard process. We put in over 100 hours of course time in addition to all of the online studying and travel. It was humiliating at times. We submitted ourselves to constant critique. We were evaluated physically and mentally every day in tough conditions. There were many times when I doubted whether I could pull this off. Our course director Bruce Weitzenhoffer and his colleague Dane Durand pushed, prodded and molded us into dive pros – not an easy task. Bruce pushed us hard but we were ready when the time came. He was also there for every minute of our 2 day exam. He didn’t need to that but it was so sweet and helpful to see him on the pool deck and shore cheering us on. He really cares about us and that was the best part of this whole experience. I feel like I have a true mentor and friend in Bruce. He took me to a new place. I feel so much better in the water and have such a deeper understanding of my equipment and how diving affects my body. I feel like a dive professional now and am proud to be in the their ranks. I think I’ll be a kind and patient instructor and can’t wait to get out there with my first student. Anybody want to learn how to dive? First class on me. Seriously.

Scott, Nick, Gail (Examiner), Bruce (Course Director), Will and Drew

Leave Your Ego on Shore

If you ask anyone that has done some dive training they will tell you that you have to be prepared to get yelled at. A lot. I’ve had to learn to leave my ego at the shore for every dive training class that I’ve attended. It definitely varies in degree depending on the instructor but you are guaranteed to be at the wrong end of several hours of harsh corrections. They point, grab, yell, pull, yank and maybe – just maybe, tell you that you did something okay. It’s the whole point, really. The instructor feels a tremendous weight to show you the safest way to manage a very dangerous situation so you just have to let it come at you full force and learn the lessons.

My visceral instinct is to defend myself but you have to let that wash over you. I am here because I don’t have these skills and want to learn them. When my instructor tears me apart – I have to let it happen. It’s the development part. The meat of the thing that I’ve thrown myself into. Today was hard but wonderful. I came home last night completely worn out after 10 hours in the classroom and had several hours of homework after that. My shoulder was still killing me so I didn’t get a lot of sleep and got up at 4 AM to review my in water demo skills again and was back at the training pool by 6 AM.

We spent seven hours in the pool today showing 24 “demonstration quality” skills that I will be using when I start teaching a class. There were no less than four instructors rating our performance and it was intense. We would demonstrate a skill and then receive a long list of feedback. It was mostly good but very very very specific. If your motions were too fast or you weren’t watching your other students while also maintaining perfect buoyancy then you got dinged. To make thing more interesting, the instructors throw curve balls on every skill. They give our fellow students ways to mess with you to see if you can manage it. You are going through your demo and everything is going great. Then your student is spitting out their regulator and grabbing at their mask. You have to deal with this hot mess while also constantly swiveling your head around to keep track of your other students and your assistant. You just can’t freak out. Keep breathing and solve the problem. I did several skills that I thought were picture perfect and then had to absorb 5 minutes of corrections that I had never thought of before. Listen, learn and correct. I can’t be defensive or hurt. I am here to learn something I don’t know.

After our pool skills were were all exhausted but we grabbed some lunch and went back into the classroom to re-learn rescue skills for an unresponsive diver. This is the real deal. If you have a diver that is unconscious in the water, you have to know all the steps to turn them over, remove their gear, give rescue breaths, tow them to the boat or shore and summon medical help. Then we gave our first classroom teaching demo using the PADI lesson plan method that includes a ten point checklist of items that they want you to hit on every lesson plan. Engage your students in interactive scenarios, state the objective, answer the question, reinforce the value, tie in training aids, sell dive travel and products, incorporate online tools, summarize and reinforce. Oh, and be fluid and engaging. Don’t forget that part!

It really is a great feeling though when I get to the end of these hard days. I’ve learned so much already and it is going great. I am nailing some skills that I wasn’t really good at before and really bonding with my fellow students. We are learning little tricks to help each other out and have made a pact to stick together for our instructor exam next week. If we can do the live stuff together for the PADI instructors that would be great. We are learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we lean into those to help each other out in subtle ways. It’s sweet to watch them help me out and I can return the favor. We feel the anxiety together and it’s what gets us through to the next skill. Maybe that is the best thing I’ve learned so far.

My Land and Sea

Today was our first classroom day and it was an intense one. We started off with a two hour timed dive theory exam that included a bunch of calculations. The questions are designed to test whether you understand the basics of the physics of diving. It’s helpful because it makes you think about the science behind everything but it isn’t what you necessarily use on a daily basis. You have to calculate the weight and pressure of sea and fresh water and how it affects lifting objects, air consumption and decompression sickness risks. I missed 15 out of 100 questions so I am solidly in the passing range but have a few things to dig into before the final instructor exam.

We got a lunch break and I headed over to Mi Tierra taqueria for some of the best food I’ve had in a long time. I had to muddle through my terrible Spanish but I would do anything for another plate of these delicious pastor tacos with grilled onions and hot peppers. I’ll be back there tomorrow for sure. After lunch, we spent the afternoon on some practical tests on how to handle difficult class situations. It isn’t going to be easy to try to manage all of these new divers in the water and this part of the course is training us on how to manage the chaos while keeping safety priority number one.

Daisy is on break

My fellow students are really friendly and helpful. We also have two other students that are already instructors but they are training to be master instructors and shadowing our leader through the process. It’s hard on all of us. We are all lovers of the outdoors and it’s tough to spend 12 hours a day in the classroom but it just shows how dedicated everyone is to diving. We will suffer through the paperwork and long lecture to learn more, be better divers and teachers. I am also dealing with a bad shoulder strain that I am hoping gets better before our water training. I fell pretty hard the other day getting out of the water and the weight of my tank fell onto my left shoulder when I crashed to the ground. It took a day to show up but boy when it did, it came in strong. I can’t lift my left arm without a lot of pain. Hoping the Advil and Biofreeze will pull this together soon!

Magical Neon Underwater Forests and a Paper Dragon

Neon Blue and Red Reefs in Monterey, California

I arrived in Monterey yesterday to start my dive instructor training and got my first taste of diving the California coast today. We hit Monastery Beach with a few dive buddies and it blew my mind. The reefs and kelp beds are stunning. Neon creatures are packed everywhere you look and the cold water and strong currents are challenging but fun. I was just in 87 degree water a week ago but here I am diving in the low 50s in a 7mm wetsuit that isn’t keeping me warm for very long. After about 30 minutes in the water, I am shaking. West coast diving is next level for sure and I am excited to face the challenge but I sure do miss diving in nothing but a rash guard and board shorts in Palm Beach.

Click the play button

I’m nervous about this course. I am excited to learn how to teach but it feels like a very heavy responsibility as well. Diving is serious business and putting new divers in the water is a big deal. I remember the fear on my first open water check out dive and my goal is to find a method of teaching that helps students feel at ease. It would be a tremendous honor to be able to introduce new friends to the 71% of our planet covered in ocean. It has changed my life for sure and I want to share it with everyone that will listen. It’s amazing down there. The quiet world of wild animals and beautiful flora are a refuge from our world above. My dive buddy today said that she forgot that there was a global pandemic today. That’s powerful.

The Paper Dragon

I am in good hands with PADI – the certification agency that I am taking the course with. When I set out all of the course materials on one place this afternoon it made me feel better. There are DVDs, encyclopedias, training guides, emergency first aid training and teaching slates that guide you through each step of the process. It is a paper dragon for sure but it gives me a lot of confidence in the process. I am comfortable with paper – I’m kind of an expert at creating complicated piles of it so this feels like home to me. The difference with this is that at the end of this long series of intense study and testing I hope to have the credentials to create wonderful experiences for new divers.

Before heading to my first class, I spent some time driving down the Pacific Coast Highway and enjoying the views of the ocean from Big Sur and it was as beautiful as I’ve heard. The views are stunning from the steep cliffs and I walked down to the beach and watched the marine layer fog roll in. I hope to share some more good pictures of the training with you. It’s going to be a lot of classroom time but I’ll send you just the good bits from the water.

Valley Sunrise

We got up early this morning to catch the sunrise in this beautiful valley we spent the night in. The stars were amazing when I poked my head out of the tent at 5 AM before the sun started to warm the skies. It was just at freezing when we got up and there was a thin layer of ice on the tent and the grass. We had such a hot day our first day and it was surprising how much colder it is over 10,000 feet. Chuck is not showing any signs of altitude sickness which is great but the last two days wore the poor guy out. He didn’t want to get out the warm sleeping bag this morning but he looked happy once we got going.

The first six miles of today was probably the most beautiful section of trail I’ve ever hiked. Lost Creek runs down the middle of the valley and it is so green and full of animals. We saw dozens of rabbits scurrying across the trail and also a juvenile moose off up the hill. I couldn’t get a good picture of her before she ran off but it was so cool to catch sight of her for a few seconds. When we came out of the valley we had a nice easy series of gentle climbs through aspen and then down into a wetlands area known for a lot of bear activity.

We didn’t see any bear but we saw lots of intimidating scratch marks on the aspen trunks. It was a clear sign that we needed to swiftly get through this section and make plenty of noise doing it. The Guthook comments talked about several aggressive bears that are out and about. I would love to see one but glad in the end that we made it through without any issues.

We spent about an hour at a nice water stop and chatted up a couple from Kansas City. They were battling some serious blisters and had been trying out several different pairs of shoes to see if they could get some relief. They were taking it slow with a lot of breaks to doctor up their feet but having a great time in between. We stopped around the 17 mile mark today and found a campsite on a ridge next to a cattle grazing area. Taco does not like all the mooing but it isn’t stopping him from getting some rest in the tent. While we were snoozing this afternoon, a huge golden retriever came pouncing into the tent and scared Taco half to death. They made peace in the field but it was quiet a few minutes of drama.

We have a short hike to the road tomorrow morning and then are going to try to hitch into Jefferson for a resupply. Depending on how long that takes we might need to cut tomorrow a little short on the miles. It’s nice to feel so free to do some really easy days out here. I know that Noodle is going to pick it up after we are done but I don’t think he minds the easier pace for the time being.😁

A Dog’s Hike

Taco coming into the Lost Creek Valley

This hike is all about Taco. I was pretty nervous about today since I’ve never hiked him above 10,000 feet and I watched him so carefully. We took nice long breaks every few miles and as we climbed into the higher elevations I made sure that he wasn’t exhibiting any signs of elevation sickness. He is doing great and I’m starting to relax into this a little. Hiking with a dog is a new ballgame. It is a blast but there is a lot of added mental stress making sure that they are staying safe, fed and rested. We are keeping the miles low but when we get into camp he heads directly for the tent and hogs my sleeping bag. He got dinner in bed tonight so he can maximize his rest time. He is so spoiled but so worth it.

We’ve met so many hikers already. I would say that I’ve met more in the two days that I’ve been on the CT than two months’ worth on the AT. We hiked a bit with Moe from Montrose, Colorado today and Noodle found us some puffball mushrooms and taught us how to open them to make sure they were edible. They were fantastic and had this wonderful earthy flavor that stayed with me for hours. Moe showed us a wildflower that you can use as antiseptic for cuts and that you can use aspen bark as sunscreen. I love learning about all these amazing backcountry tricks.

Moe and Low Branch hunting puffball mushrooms

The CT itself is so different from the AT. The Trail is so smooth and fast. I would have killed for just a mile of this in Pennsylvania. The views are huge and we are seeing a ton of wildlife. Mostly deer and birds but there are two very friendly chipmunks in camp tonight. They came right up to our dinner area and started poking around in our food bags. I am hoping that they haven’t figured out how to chew through a bear hang bag but I won’t be surprised if they can. They look like the smartest chipmunks I’ve ever met.

Hey there. Whatcha got in that bag there?

These light miles and slow pace is wonderful. I’m not sore at all and it is great to spend a few hours chatting in camp and lazily making dinner and organizing gear. We climb into our tents around 6:30 and read for a few hours. It’s heaven compared to the pace we were heading to Maine on. We are camping tonight in a beautiful valley next to a nice flowing stream. It is a cool 60 degrees and the sun is setting behind our tents. The chipmunks are singing their little cooing song or maybe it is their war cry. I don’t know what they have planned tonight but I expect it involves trying to get inside our tents.

The Colorado Trail

A few weeks ago my AT trail buddy Nasty Noodle told me he had decided to hike the Colorado Trail. I didn’t know much about it but after a few minutes of research it looked like something that would be great to join him for a bit of. He is going to complete the full 500 mile trail but Taco and I are joining him for the first 140 miles from the South Platte River up to Leadville. Today was our first day and it was so beautiful. So different from the AT and in so many good ways. The views are big and open and the first segment is all high desert and aspen stands as we got above 8,000 feet.

I really wanted to get Taco back out on the trail since his AT experience was cut so short because of the virus. We drove out here from Atlanta and the poor guy had to deal with 22 hours stuck in the car. We spent our first night in St. Louis and then we made the 13 hour jump across Kansas to Denver. Thank goodness for my new favorite podcast called Ear Hustle and was able to catch up on the episodes that I had been missing.

It was great to be back with Noodle. I had really missed his energy and crazy stories. We fell right back into our constant hiker chatter about gear, miles and food. He is such a positive person and I get a lot out of being around his attitude towards life. I think that is what I most enjoyed about being with Boogie and Scoobie too. They are determined to get through these crazy times being hopeful about the future. There isn’t a lot of that out there right now.

Speaking of – Boogie and Scoobie officially finished their 2,193 mile thru hike yesterday in Bland, Virginia. Not the most inspiring town for a finish line but Boogie’s brother fixed that right up with a beautiful sign and a balloon rainbow. They look so happy in this picture and I’m so impressed that they found a way to get this done this year. They are off to start college in a few weeks and what a great way kick off their freshman year.

We hiked 16 miles today and are going to let Taco set the pace. He is doing great with the hiking and the elevation but I don’t want to push him too hard. We will climb up above 10,000 feet tomorrow and stay there for the rest of the hike. I acclimated him slowly in Denver and then we drove to Cooper and Leadville for the night. Our hike today started at 6,000 feet and we slowly got above 8,000 today. He got a kick out of seeing this beautiful doe today and he was especially impressed with his first black squirrel sighting. I will try to get a picture of one for you but they are not so keen on posing for my blog photos. They don’t know what they are missing.

Absolutely Fabulous

I’ve lost all credibility when it comes to the AT. Every time someone asks me which section is my favorite, I have a different answer. New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Georgia and Connecticut have all been at the top of the list. I feel like Patsy and Edina at their wine tasting in France on Absolutely Fabulous. They proclaim that each one is their favorite and end up buying out half of the winery. That’s me. Stumbling around the Trail saying “Fantastique” and “This is the one.”

To be fair, Virginia really went all out today. We had a huge thunderstorm last night and the Trail was bright and fresh this morning with a beautiful light fog. We saw deer, a big turtle and a sweet little baby bird. We also got an amazing summer thunderstorm after lunch and it felt so good to get soaked and feel the cool breeze some up from the valley. The thunder and lightning was a little intense on top of the ridge but it was worth it.

I really do love Virginia. The Trail is so gentle and green. The summertime scents from the wildflower fields are intense and the Trail crews keep it beautifully maintained. If you have just a few days to do on the Trail, I would pick a section in Southern Virginia and you can’t go wrong. The AT books all talk about the “Virginia Blues” that hikers get because you are in the state so long but I don’t know what they are talking about.

We got in 26 miles today and stayed in Glasgow so that Boogie and Scoobie could get their laundry done. We went to a great BBQ place and met a bunch of NOBOs that started in June. There are quite a few hikers that got back on late in the season and they are all pushing hard to get to Katahdin before they close October 15. They have some fast hiking to do but can make it for sure.

I’m going to shuttle Boogie and Scoobie back to the Trail this morning and then head home. They are doing great and have just a week of hiking left. When they get off Trail, they just have a few days before starting their freshman year at college. They are sweet, open and loving people and I’m going to miss being around their energy. Hopefully, these Trail friends are for life.

Virginia Summertime

We woke up to a pretty funny situation this morning. A family of raccoons invaded our tent site around 4 AM and ransacked anything that smelled of food. They started by knocking my JetBoil stove around to find out that it just had water in it. They moved on to Scoobie and Boogie’s packs and unwrapped a few snacks and ran off to the woods with them. They tried to drag Boogie’s entire pack down the Trail but she was able to scare them off in time. No real damage was done and we had some good laughs to start our day.

We hit the Priest Mountain climb right at 6 AM and were treated to a spectacular sunrise as we hiked up and around the switchbacks. It is a shame that New Hampshire hasn’t been introduced to those yet. It makes the climb so pleasant. I popped in my earphones and cranked up my favorite Death Cab for Cutie mix and had a blast hiking fast up to the top. I stopped at a nice viewpoint and finished my coffee and watched the sunrise come up over the valley.

The Confessional

We took a nice long break at the Priest shelter and read through the confessions. Since this is a family friendly blog, I can’t share most of these with you. Let’s just say that thru hikers are and amorous bunch and there isn’t a lot of resting going on in the shelters. I think my favorite confession was from a thru hiker confesses that he yelled “Shut the F Up!” at a group of young Boy Scouts that were talking outside of the shelter at 7 AM.

This section of the Trail is really amazing in the summer. It is so green and covered in beautiful white, purple, orange and yellow wildflowers. The butterflies and bumble bees are busy pollinating and I got some great video of them that I can share with you when I get into town tomorrow. I’m so glad that I got to see this section in the summer. I don’t recognize it all from the relatively barren landscape that we hiked through in April.

Cole Mountain

We had hoped to camp on Cole Mountain for the sunset but there were signs letting us know that camping in the balds was prohibited so we pressed on to the next shelter. I had John Lewis on my mind today as he was remembered and honored at his funeral in Atlanta. I treated myself to a great On Being episode from 2013 where Krista spent an hour with him. It was so soothing to hear his sweet voice and soak in his message of love and hopefulness. Give this a listen when you have some time.

My gecko buddies are going strong

We got into the shelter just in time for a strong thunderstorm to roll through. The rain is pounding on the tin roof and the thunder is coming in strong. I’m so glad we are not on top of Cole Mountain in this! The rain will be great for all of the wildflowers and the James River should be running strong when we get to it tomorrow afternoon. Sadly, tomorrow will be my last day but it was wonderful to spend more time with my sweet friends and see how fantastic this part of the Trail is in Summer.