Monday, December 26, 2011


"Grace means more than gifts. In grace something is transcended, once and for all overcome. Grace happens in spite of something; it happens in spite of separateness and alienation. Grace means that life is once again united with life, self is reconciled with self. Grace means accepting the abandoned one. Grace transforms fate into a meaningful vocation. It transforms guilt to trust and courage. The word grace has something triumphant in it."

Yrjo Kallinen

This is typically a pretty brutal time of the year. With it's false expectations of of love and good will, the illusion that we're something more than the animals hidden inside us, it always seems to end in sadness and disappointment. This year was different. My family has been in Salt Lake City for the past week, and will remain there for the next. It's no ski vacation, no pleasant distraction from their lives in Pennsylvania. Instead it is what Christmas, and any other day of the year, should be about. My Dad is in SLC donating donating bone marrow to save his dying brother. He's a perfect match and it's expected that my Uncle Mike will make a full recovery. It's a painful process and it stretches out over a full two weeks. Without thought or hesitation, and lacking the finances to make such a trip, my dad hopped on that fucking plane and gave a gift that matters. Not that fucking garbage that you and I piled under our trees this year, not gift cards or shiny shit from Apple that will be outdated in six months, he gave what mattered. My Dad is a fucking stud and I have a lot to learn from him. STUD. Now shove that confrontational and self righteous "Keep Christ in Christmas" button up your ass. Ho Ho Ho.

It's almost embarrassing for me to describe the gift that I gave to myself early yesterday morning, but I guess that's because it has more to do with soul and absolution than "stuff" I think it's okay to talk about it. I ran my first 25k (15.6 miles) yesterday. I can think of very few things more satisfying than spending hours alone in the woods; the feel of burning legs and lungs, the attempts to find answers to questions that she and I both know have no answer, and that feeling of elation as I hit the parking lot at the trail head blistered, bleeding, and so fucking satisfied. Priceless

I've been down on myself for the slow pace and long hours I spend traveling miles that most seasoned trail runners can cover in half the time at twice the speed. Yesterday I reminded myself that I was the guy that couldn't run a quarter mile without horrible shin splints, that five years ago weighed more than 50 lbs what I weigh now, and a guy that has gained, however fleeting, a sense of peace and comfort inside my own skin. I also compared the terrain I run to what I've seen from other areas of the country and it seems to match up well with the most challenging trails I've seen online and in photos. I would say that maybe 4 or 5 miles of the 15 are flat. Of those 5 miles, maybe 2 are not littered with with roots and rocks, and the climbs, while short, are pretty fucking steep. Maybe these pictures will give a sense of what running the Appalachian Trail looks like:

Saturday, December 24, 2011

BENNETT'S POND 12/24/2011

"The pain of the world will sear and break our hearts because we can no longer keep them closed. We've seen too much now. To some degree or other, we have surrendered into service and are willing to pay the price of compassion. But with it comes the joy of a single, caring act. With it comes the honor of participating in a generous process in which one rises each day and does what one can. With it comes the simple, singular grace of being an instrument of Love, in whatever form, to whatever end." Ram Dass

Monday, December 19, 2011


I'm a shitty runner. I mean a really, really shitty runner. I'm talking 13 minute mile shitty. It took me over 3 hours to run 11.1 miles. Sure, there was 1600 feet of elevation gain, but really, 3 hours? So it got me thinking yesterday, will I ever be able to run a 50k? A 50 mile? I guess if I had 5 or 6 days to set aside I might, but until then I'll just need to find some satisfaction in spending hours alone in the woods. I guess it won't matter to me much that I won't ever enter a race, after all, a good part of the reason I run is to get away from human beings, even nice hiking/running human beings. I've learned a lot about myself out there. I've learned that when the pain begins, it eventually goes away. I've learned to enjoy the few precious moments when the bewildering misfiring of chemicals in my head miraculously quiet themselves. I've learned that I no longer crave the swirling chaos of the city. I've learned that she and I had our few 'moments in grace' and now they are gone. I've learned that I need less and less to live a satisfying life. I'm still learning to make peace with what I see and feel when I'm out there; when the temperature is in the high teens, the sun barely rising over West Mountain, and the silence serving as both blessing and curse.

This is a brief explanation of why Nuclear Lake is, in fact, named Nuclear Lake. It's taken from the blog "Bean Road":

Nuclear Lake, in a hollow beneath West Mountain in Pawling, New York, is a beautiful spot with a troubled past.

When I was teaching physics at the Trinity-Pawling school in Pawling, the Appalachian Trail south of Pawling was a long roadwalk. The National Park Service bought a large parcel of woodland with the intent to reroute the trail. The process took several years however, because the property had been operated by the UNC (United Nuclear Corporation) and was the site of one of the few private uranium and plutonium research facilities in the United States. But nuclear research alone was not the main concern. In 1972, a chemical explosion blew out two windows in the north side of the laboratory, spewing an unknown amount of plutonium dust through the woods. United Nuclear cleaned up the property at a cost of $3 million, but local residents and Appalachian Trail hikers were concerned about the potential health risks.

In 1980, the old buildings and retention tanks were still there on the shore of Nuclear Lake, abandoned and decaying. Nearly 30 years later, the AT has been rerouted, and it now passes the site of the old laboratory and hugs the west shore of the lake. The old UNC sign and the buildings are gone now, though several large clearings remain.

It somehow makes sense that I would run at the site of a nuclear disaster...

On a side not, This 829 lb bear was killed in North Jersey, not too far from Harriman State Park and Bear Mountain. I would kick that things ass:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


18 miles. That's the distance from my front door to two different entrances to the Appalachian Trail. 18 miles to steep climbs, rocks, roots, and solitude. Solitude. I've recently stripped my life to the bone. I have no band, no friends in the immediate area, no hobbies other than writing and running, and I'm looking to the AT to help piece my life back together. It's unnecessary for me to catalog what I've been through in the last 7 months, but it's safe to say that I reached the outer limits of happiness and abject misery, and in the end it left me feeling pretty empty.

Today I ran 6.5 miles on a section of the AT I'd never run or hiked before. It was comforting to not know what was coming next and to just flow. This past Sunday I did a 7 mile run on a stretch of the trail that I know well. She and I used to spend hours there; climbing, eating junk food and Gu, and spilling our secrets. It was always warm and lush and the hours seemed to end far too quickly. The difference between those summer days and now is how the quiet seems to change so swiftly from calming to deeply unsettling. In the summertime there are birds, there are voices echoing on the trail, there is the sound of insects; all sounds that die in the winter months. In the summer there is proof of life and the winter dispenses with that. Recently the sound of winter is what I crave.



Saturday, December 10, 2011


Why humans, for the most part, are garbage...

Let's start with the douchebag that left the deer carcass in the parking lot this morning. I'm all for reducing the deer population, and I have great respect for anyone that can nail a deer with a bow, but leaving the carcass in the fucking parking lot? Really? There are plenty of people that bring their kids to hike the trails at Bennett's Pond. I can see it now... "Hey dad, why are there parts of Rudolph in that trash bag?" "Well, son, it's because people suck." So that's reason number one for me to dislike humanity on this lovely December morning.

Reason number two: FUCK CHRISTMAS. It's a stupid fucking holiday to begin with and when you add pieces of human garbage pepper spraying each other, stepping over dead people, and causing riots over two dollar waffle irons at Wal Mart, it's time to cull the human herd. Wanna embrace the "Christmas Spirit"? Instead of buying cheap plastic shit from China, why don't you try throwing a few bucks to someone that's in need. If you don't think you know anyone like that, you're not looking hard enough. You people make me pray for the apocalypse.

Reason three? I don't need another reason.

Here are some random pictures from the past 5 months; Mount Washington, Bennett's, Bear Mountain, My love for Penn State, and a bunch of other crap. Oh, and a deer carcass stuffed in a trash bag.