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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Boat building & life in Washington State

Since finishing my hike I decided to stay in Northern Washington State for a while. It seemed a little more fitting for me than New York City!

I've been busy renovating bathrooms and kitchens and have started preparing for my next trip. I plan on heading out to Bismarck, North Dakota in early April and rowing the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers as well as the gulf coast, Lake Okeechobee & the Atlantic Coast up to Sandy Hook, NJ. From there I will take a day, get some support and attempt to swim the final 10 miles to Annadale Beach, NY where I grew up. The whole trip will be around 5000 miles and I hope to complete it in 4-5 months. *Disclaimer: I've never rowed in my life and my swimming ability is rather limited (: *

I decided to build my boat and started on the process in the beginning of November. I went with a design by Colin Angus of Angus Rowboats. (Colin and his wife rowed 7000km from Scotland to Syria with their custom designed rowboats and sell plans/ kits for others to build).

The boat is an 18' long, 3' wide, oakume & fiberglass decked rowing scull with some custom touches by me. So far I have about 200 hours in it. I plan on putting in LED lights, an amplifier with waterproof speakers, solar panels, hatch hinges & locks. For this trip, I'll be traveling in style (:

Below are some photos! Enjoy



So it starts. Panels were scarf joined and the hull was wired in place with copper ties. Then, epoxy was injected into the gaps and sanded smooth.



Final finishing sanding before applying the fiberglass.



Epoxy bringing out the color of the wood. Went out to cut some firewood to heat up the garage in order for my epoxy to dry properly.



Designing and routing out space for the deck inlays. Combining African Wenge, Paduke & maple for a cool design



The finished inlay. After Installation & a first coat of epoxy to seal the wood.



Stern inlay planning. Deck oakum joints prettied up



Finished Stern and joint inlays


I'm hoping to have the boat finished in another month. Once I get a pair of oars I'll be able to throw it in the Okanogan river for a test run!


I've also been building some custom wood cutting boards with the left over boat hardwood!




My Pacific Crest Trail Hike...

was epic on so many levels.

I finished my 2600+ mile hike on September 18th after 104 days of hiking. I averaged a marathon a day (26 miles), my longest day was 52 miles and I took a total of 4 zero days. I plan on hiking it again in the near future.

There really is not much else to say about it! I can tell you all about the beautiful vistas, the crisp mountain springs, the glacial melt stream crossing, my campspots, wildlife, etc... but you won't understand. No one, unless they've hiked the trail, will understand what I felt and experienced for those 4 months. If, however, you need some inspiration to go and hike the trail for yourself hopefully these photos will do it!



Southern California!



Poodle dog bush, Yoshi (Wanderer) and myself (BrokenToe)



Flower & myself atop Mt. Whitney on July 5th



Taking a minute to enjoy the sun before going over Forester Pass!



A (regular) view from my tent!



Following the trail in Northern California



In Oregon! As beautiful as it was, I flew through the 450 mile state in 13 days.



As easy as it gets



Cool feet feel so good! & right before Snoqualmie Pass, WA



Goat Rocks<3



Enjoying some berries in the Cascades



It was all downhill from there to the town of Stehekin



An easy fix for a leaky tent. Canadian Border (':



A glorious last day























Saturday, June 22, 2013

Hiking



If you're reading this you probably know that I'm out hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2650 mile hiking trail from the Mexican to the Canadian border. This is my attempt to update this blog with a degree of excitement. Truth is my days consist of getting up, eating, hiking, eating and sleeping.

I've been out here since June 2nd. I've hiked about 450 miles thus far. I am sunburnt. My feet have huge blisters that are turning into callouss. My body's still adapting to the 25+ mile days. For the most oart, I am happy.

The past few days I've been hiking on the outskirts of the Mohave desert; along aqueducts, wind farms, and an occasional mountain or two. A rattlesnake or a bobcat sighting will enthrall me for a minute or two before I "keep on keepin' on. "

I stayed and met all the major trail angels along the PCT, the people I've been reading and hearing about for years now. Ziggy and the Bear, the Saufleys of Agua Dulce, the Anderson's of Casa de Luna. You've all been amazing and I can't explain how comfortable you guys make us feel in your homes.

----

Yesterday I accidentally stepped on the head of a horned frog (actually a lizard i believe) when it ran out in front of my feet. It's eyes bulged out and blood trickled out. It was still moving and I knew I had to kill it. I staked it with my hiking pole and then stomped it out. Over and over. I wanted to end its misery quickly, yet somehow lost control of myself and only stopped when its intestines were on one side of the trail and its tail on the other. I was pretty hysterical at that point; I guess frogs and toads hold a special place in my heart. Even with the sun never surrendering to the seldom cloud the rest of the day had sort of a gloom over it that I just couldn't shake. I didn't muster the appetite for supper that night either.

-----

The wind has been relentless. You give up at some point to the 40-50mph gusts and just let them have at you. In a way it makes you feel powerful against the elements. I entered the blissful state of "no mind" throughout the day as well. Energy from within swept over me and nothing but the present moment mattered. A state of no pain, no worry and no stress. I was hiking and could feel the Joshua trees. Not just see then, but feel them. I got a rhythm going and was at peace with everything, even the fire ants biting my already sore and sunburnt skin. (It was Hike Naked Day. I do not recommend hiking naked in the desert if you want to sleep that night.) I stopped cutting switchbacks and felt so close to the trail. I often try to prolong these moments by just focusing on the present moment but the "feelings" always find a way back in.

I have 150 miles of hiking left before I hit Kennedy Meadows, the entrance into the sierras, the end to a very long section of trail, & the start of thunderstorms & 10,000 foot mountains.

I'd rather be nowhere else right now though then on the trail in the desert, in my super comfy sleeping bag, watching the stars and eating a poptart.

- BrokenToe.
Photos are public on Facebook:

Facebook.com/wojplata


*Disclaimer: I wasn't high when writing this.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

3 months of hiking...

Does a person a lot of good.

My original goal was to hike from New York to Georgia. 2 days before my departure I broke my toe, then pinched a nerve in my neck the morning of. Everything was telling me to hold back; to stay in the comfort of the known. I had a package to deliver to my friend OnTrak and figured I could do a couple of days and come back.

I'm glad I forced myself to go out and hike, and I'm glad I kept at it. The past 3 months have been pure bliss. I hiked 1287 miles (more then half of the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Maine - Georgia) in 78 days at an average pace of 17 miles a day with two zero days. Considering the weight of my pack during most of the trip (hovering right around 45 lbs), my broken toe, major foot pain and the colder weather I am very satisfied with my average.

My days divided up as follows: 11 hours for sleep, 11 hours for hiking, and an hour in the morning and evening to cook and get ready to hike or sleep. Compared to my 10,000 mile bike tour this was 5 times harder, both physically and mentally. Here are some highlights:

- Falling into a pool of freezing stream water.
- Slack packing 42 miles and then starving for 3 days as I ran out of food.
- Mentally loosing all my shit on Thunder Hill in Virginia.
- Getting out of the pool at the Red Roof Inn, realizing there were no towels, and running past the front desk with OnTrak in underwear yelling "You're out of towels in pool room! Fackkk!"
- Ordering Pizza & Subs at every pizza place & never being able to finish everything, feeling like a bloated whale afterwards and then hungry again after an hour of hiking.
- Receiving numerous Trail Magic from all the angels out there!
- Hanging out with ponies at Greyson Highlands.
- Taking down Body Shops like pros and being lazy yellow blazers.
- Freezing half to death, toes & fingers numb from climbing under rhododendron bushes all day in heavy snow and hearing at the end of the day Flower say: "On the bright side, at least it's not raining!"
- Trying to put on frozen shoes with frozen laces after fighting to put on frozen sock.
- Waking up at 5:30 and hiking by 7 AM.
- Night-hiking alone, in the middle of no where, & feeling more at peace then one could ever describe.
- Gathering wood for all the fires that never failed to warm my spirit.
- Feeling like a complete bum, sitting outside gas stations and stores, smiling at people as they went by.
- Getting to see Washington DC and adding Tennessee & Delaware to the list of states I've been to.
- Every shower I took, probably a dozen in total.
- Every real- hot meal I had. Except for the pizza in Daleville, that shit was nasty.
- Free- climbing a 40 foot cliff on the Blue Ridge Parkway, getting stuck 5 feet from the top and hyperventilating, wondering if I would die or end up paralyzed if I fell.
- Trying to scare a bear away at the Priest Shelter that would not go away.
- Swimming across the Shenandoah River and getting sucked under by the current.
- Chasing cows and trying to touch one while hiking through the many pastures.
- Hiking and camping in the snow, trying to pitch our tents outside a shelter and failing miserably due to the wind.
- Running down a mountain and completing 6 miles in an hour. 
- The shooting stars, sunsets, sunrises and incredible views.
- Hiking, meeting & talking to all the people out on the trail- OnTrak, U-Turn, Aqua, Johhny Walker, Shake, Late Lunch, Wanderlust, Dunn, Halfway, Flower, Chucky da Fish, Heavy Panther, Crocket, Kansas Express, Acorn, Orange Crush, the many day hikers, northbounders & others whose names I can't remember.

I made it back to New York City on Thanksgiving Eve after a 15-hour Amtrak ride from hell, devoured a satisfying meal & unrolled my pad on the front porch. My mom asked me if I was "so excited to take a shower!", dumbfounded I looked at her and replied with; "why? I took one a few days ago & I didnt't even hike yesterday, I should be good for another couple of days." On that note I peed in the bushes, crawled into my sleeping bag slept soundly for 12 hours(except for my midnight lunch snack of course).

Currently I'm having some trouble re-adjusting, something I didn't experience after my much longer bike trip. I definitely changed quite a bit which wasn't evident to me while I was out hiking.

I am no longer able to sit and mindlessly watch Television and commercials like I did before, nor ignore all the ad's around me. With the "Holiday Season" upon us I feel more detached from the "real" world and just want to live simply in an environment that suits me. I hear people complaining and it bothers me. It seems as though people complain about complaining and then complain some more about problems that they created for themselves in the first place.  It goes beyond consumption and complaining though, I feel as though I'm much more in tune with my surroundings and people when I talk to them. I sense their unhappiness and anger, and it makes me wonder why I keep coming back to this place.

The goal for now is to save up some money and get some lighter gear. I learned on this previous hike how little I truly need to be content and how great it feels to hike with a lighter pack. I'd like to get my base weight (everything minus food & water) down to around 10 pounds. To save weight I'll cut my toothbrush in half, eliminate any extra straps and mesh, and shave every ounce that I can off of my gear. I plan on carrying no more then 25 items (including each sock counted as a separate item), and head out to California around February to hike from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. It stretches some 2600+ miles through deserts, snow fields, and the highest peaks in the US with less towns, more risk and even greater rewards.

Happy Holidays,
BrokenToe.

Fortune!2
U-Turn & myself recieved the same fortune


Grayson Highlands ponies terrorizing OnTrak (Ending is epic)

OnTrak & BrokenToe
The most beautifullll view on the entire trail! (or so we're told)

Colorful
Fall colors

Fira
Sitting by the campfire

In the middle of the Shenandoah River!
Crossing the Shenandoah River

yohosobo
Halfway, Flower & myself.

epic
Pony

Harsh
Summit of one of the bald mountains

More Photos Here!


Monday, August 20, 2012

Unfinished stories and upcoming torture.

I finished my bike trip on a date that eludes me, on the George Washington Bridge surrounded by teammates. The next day I was so weak I couldn't get out of bed and ended up in the ER a few days after. After receiving a mighty fine bill for 2 tylenol and 30 minutes of "rest" in the hospital I went home, rested, and started working soon after. The 70 hour work weeks became the norm the past three months, and now I'm a bit apprehensive to leave again to go walk in the woods.

I often wondered why so many people never finish their blogs nor go on any other adventures ever again. I think that part of the reason is that it's a thousand times more difficult to leave again after settling down then it is to do it for the first time. I'm scared. I don't say that often, but I'm scared of being miserable out on the hike. I'm scared of the rain, the cold, the nagging thoughts on food and a dwindling budget. I'm scared of myself, I'm scared of being lonely. I'm not scared of bears though.

I don't need to go and prove anything to anyone anymore. I never did, except maybe to myself. In a way the whole 8 months I spent riding a fucking bicycle around the country seem like a waste of time. People often ask me "Oh! it must have been so wonderful! What was your favorite part?" I don't know what to say. I got up and biked. I then biked the next day, and the next day. Over time I biked around the country. I saw things; I met people. It was great. Hooray.

Maybe I'm just down on life, maybe it's something else. I'm sick of the city and I'm sick of the uncertain. Life on the road is over-romanticized. It's nothing but torture and pain day in and day out.

I'm having a bad day.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

(:

Monday, June 4, 2012

What brings you to Ohio?

"I said damn if I know."

April 30th, 2012.

Leaving Chicago wasn't as bad as entering it- I stuck mostly to bike paths to go south east. Indiana was a lovely state. It had very well paved roads (including wide shoulders) as well as many places to pull out and camp. I decided that the Yellow River was the place to camp out the one night I spent in Indiana and it proved to be a nice quiet night on what I assumed to be hunting lands.

I got to Warsaw, Indiana the next day where I hoped to find a good Polish diner and enjoy some pierogis. At the gas station I was told that all they have as far as foreign foods go was Greek. I didn't want Greek! I went to the Visitor center where the nice ladies broke the news to me in a gentle manner; there is very little polish culture in Warsaw. I was told the lake-side restaurant had some good pizza. I didn't want pizza! My stomach was set on some polish cuisine, not Italian nor Greek. I left Warsaw disappointed with a growling tummy.

I was intimidated by the East whenever I would look at a map. Roads went everywhere, which one should I take? It all looked messy and unorganized. In the west there was a road that went north-south and a road that went west-east, and I could get on a road and stay on it for days (like hwy 64 in New Mexico). Navigating the east came back to me rather quickly though and I enjoyed quiet farm roads that went through little towns as I made my way into Ohio.

What brings you to Ohio?

I stopped in Continental, Ohio and filled my water bottles at a gas station. The employees could not control their laughter as I made my way through the store dirty, unshaven and wearing tight spandex. "I biked here from California and am..." Laughter stops. "You did what!?" By the time I left I had 3 new best friends at a gas station in Ohio.

The part of Ohio I went through was mostly farm land and it was hard to find that "perfect" campspots. Trees were sparse and few in between though I managed to find a grove in which the local rancher let me camp out in. At this point what I ate didn't matter anymore. I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner and then ate ham & lettuce sandwiches for most of the next day.
My stove became dead weight.

It rained on and off and by the time I was ready to set up camp the next day all that looked promising was an RV ground ( I won't call it a "camp" ground as there is very little camping going on. I think "parking ground" would be a better way to define these fine establishments). The gate was closed so I called the owners, they said to come on by. When I saw the amount of RV's scattered all around I turned my nifty bike and trailer around and all the owners saw were my tires shooting gravel everywhere as I dashed out away from people and society once again. I knocked on someones door to ask if I could camp in the woods in front of their house. No one answered so I perceived the answer to be yes, even though those damn yellow Posted signs were everywhere. It was fine, no one came by waking me up in the middle of the night with a rifle pointed at my head asking me "Whacha doing here boy".

The morning held onto the rain, though the drizzle turned out to be quite refreshing. I passed a house in which a garage door was open and 3 people were inside. One woman looked like she was cold and uncomfortable, the other two were shifting through a whole bunch of crap. The garage was filled with shit; shit that owned these people. I was having a low day (fuel pump broke, everything was wet) until I rode past these folks. I realized how glad I was that I wasn't them and instead myself, almost possession-less save for a few items, riding along at whatever pace the wind allowed me to. I though about how they probably pitied me, went inside, made some hot coffee and stayed inside the whole day. I pity them just as well, for they know not of the pleasure of being free.

In East Canton I stopped to buy some fruit. The cashier, a cute gal with a pretty rad name which I can't remember now gave me directions out of the city and was the first person in the East to understand my unconventional camping style. I was in the mood for a pine tree grove with a view of some farmland and found just that. The neighbor was cool about it as well after making sure I wouldn't burn the whole forest down. I think pine trees inspire peace within me.

I crossed into Pennsylvania the next day after being interviewed by a reporter in East Liverpool, OH. Story here

The rolling hills began, the camping and food was great, the people rather nice. I got to Pittsburgh, had a Pittsburger cheese steak topped with coleslaw & fries (I learned about this restaurant in New Mexico after watching a food show) and made my way (slowly) out of the city. The road was busy and a pain to ride on. I stopped at a McDonald's after the rain began and enjoyed the company of a sweet girl who kept refilling my iced tea. I can't quite remember what was sweeter- her, or the artificially flavored tea.

My kinda road (: 2




Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hospitality & Chicago

I'v often thought about how people affected my trip. How kind everyone has been, how often I've been invited in. It was no different when I arrived at Bob's Hunting Lodge. Robyn ushered me in and got me some towels so I could dry myself off. She mentioned they were going to flag me down when they saw me going by their windows. I got to chow on some pie and told some of the hunters at the lodge my story but was set on leaving shortly. The rain never stopped and the wind kept howling (stripping shingles off of the roof)and the kind folks invited me to stay for dinner and the night as they had some spare beds. I didn't want to loose too many miles so Robyn offered to drive me out east a bit the next day as she was heading to Sioux Falls.

Bobs Hunting Lodge- Bob, Robyn & Carmelo
Rob, Robyn & Carmelo

I had some of the best Lasagna ever that night (sorry Mom!) and slept soundly. The storm passed during the night, Robyn drove me out to Vermillion, SD, in the morning (and left me with some Apple Pie, 5 pounds of cold cuts, bread and snacks)and after a few miles I crossed the Missouri River into Nebraska. People were super friendly, everyone waved or smiled. I thought it was a great day until I see a black cat start to cross the road. "NO" I yelled. The cat looked at me, startled; yet frozen in time. "Please... listen to me Cat, I don't want any problems, just turn around and go back to where you came from... Yes?". "STOP! No! Don't move, please!". At this point I am yelling as loud as I can at some cat that has made it about 60% across the road. I see the neighbors door open and 3 people come out. I smile and wave nonchalantly at them and then speed across both lanes of traffic (very little traffic) in hopes of scaring the cat into thinking that I will get to him faster before he can get across and instead it will be smarter for him to turn around and not complete his unfortunate (for me) road crossing. Needless to say it didn't work, he crossed the road, I cursed at him with the people still looking at me and kept heading East. Thankfully nothing bad happened and the next few days were pretty good, although you can never be too careful.

I got on hwy 20 with the goal of crossing the Missouri again and camping somewhere in Iowa but when I saw this path leading to the river side I knew I had to take it. I found a great spot for the night and had pie for dinner. Thanks Black cat!, I guess.

The reason I did this tour.


Iowa is not flat. I never expected to be as hilly as it was. Iowas DOT also doesn't believe in shoulders, and sharing a 10' concrete road with Tractor Trailers wasn't to much fun. I do have to however Thank each and every driver that moved over into the passing lane (when they could) slowed down, waved or honked to inform me he was behind me. I do wish though that a major highway could be designed in a way that doesn't have me looking back every few seconds. I managed 86 miles with a Southerly cross wind and camped right by the road. The forecast called for 10-20mph winds from the WEST and I was set on catching every little breeze that I could. I was on the road before 8 that morning and managed 201 miles in 11.5 hours (12.5 hours with breaks). It was a new 12 hour record for me. I took a nude bath in a stream that night by moon light and was pleasantly happy with myself.

As nature would have it the next day wasn't so fun. The wind was now from the East, rain was falling and the bike path I was told to go on by the Visitor center wasn't suitable for my skinny tires. I got to the Mississippi River at Dubuque and knew perusing a crossing with no information on bridge condition wasn't the greatest idea so I camped out by the River in a park. In the morning McDonalds provided the internet which let me know the closer bridge had no shoulder and only 2 narrow lanes. I took a ride through Dubuque to the northern bridge and my return Mississippi crossing went by without a hitch on a nice wide shoulder.

I went through Wisconsin and then headed south into Illinois, was some 180 miles from Chicago at that point. It didn't rain much but it was cloudy and cold. I stopped at Subway for lunch where a lady was interested in my story. I don't believe I got the couples name but before they left I was handed a one hundred dollar bill and told to get a nice Hotel room. I was pretty moved by this gesture and hope the folks realize how much their generosity meant to me. (Thanks Judy & Gary Bocker!) It wasn't about the money really, just another reestablishment of the idea that people actually care about one another out here.

I didn't get a room for that night as I really wanted to camp out. I found a great spot on some hunting land by the highway and got lucky in the morning when the crew working on the highway nor the sheriff said anything when they saw me coming out of the woods.

I made it across Illinois in 2 days and got to Chicago that night. I stayed with Ethan who I contacted via warmshowers. The roads to get into the city were hell as usual. Chicago was yet another city. Clean, nice. I don't know how to describe cities. An open field? A river, a wooded swamp? No problem, I can write a whole book about that one place. Cities, on the other hand, are too big to truly grasp in any meaningful way on paper. Too much is happening, too many people are moving. I went to Rei and then a Polish Diner before heading out the next day.

Chicago