Thursday, August 16, 2012

Walk with Niblewill Nomad

Last weekend I had the pleasure of walking along Nimblewill Nomad as he completed the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Along with was great company. From right to left, Dave Calibe Thru-Hiker 2010, Paul Birrittella Thru-Hiker 2012, Grey Ghost Thru-Hiker 2009, Niblewill Nomad Thru-Hiker 2012, and my cousin's husband Nate who I owe recognition for making this day happen as he initiated the communication with Nimble. Additionally Nate hiked with me on the trail on two different occasions totaling 4 days of walking. A true group of Ice Age veterans.

Above is the western most point of the trail, taken shortly after completion. 

A short stop at an overlook in St. Croix Falls. The final bench of the trail for Nimble.

 Nate and I stashed beverages and snacks half way through the day. Nimble so gracious for his favorite trail drink, Sierra Mist.

Another short break as we enjoy the St. Croix River. As Nimblewill checks off sections on his map I point out that he's handling map #1 of 105 maps he's hiked for the past 45 days. I smile, and he looks at me amazed and relieved and doesn't say anything. We share a moment of silence as we both understand what it's like to hold the final map after chasing it for so long.

Nimblewill reflects after completion at Interstate State Park, overlooking the St. Croix River. It is extremely emotional. This point marks finishing 10 of 11 National Scenic Trails. Sometime next month Nimblewill will go for #11, the New England National Scenic Trail. After a mere 200 miles, Nimblewill will become the first person in history to complete all 11 National Scenic Trails. A visit to his website, will give you a better perspective on the magnitude of hiking this man has done. As he approaches the end of this trail his speed increased. I try to fathom the journey to this point but cannot relate to the decades worth of work to achieve this goal. It was a big deal. Nimblewill is an inspiration to me and so many others. Thank you Nimblewill, for making an impact on so many lives.

Here is a picture Nimble took of me when we crossed paths during our thru-hikes. I was happy. We enjoyed a conversation together I will never forget.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Portrait Transformation

Pictures of me from beginning to end.

Western Terminus, Extremely Excited, Out of Shape, and Hairy

Goodbye World, Still Day 1

Day 5, the day after I got washed out. Notice the brand new tent.

New boots too, still in great spirits.

The day after the ultimate low point of my journey when a food place I planned to eat at was closed only the day I arrived. It seems simple but this absolutely crushed my spirits. You can notice the weight loss already.

Mile 420. After resting my swollen ankle for some days I ditch my hiking stick for trekking poles.

In Manitowoc, WI. 5 Days left. It's easy to see the transformation of my body here. My mind accepts the constant disrepair of my muscles and feet. I'd go as far to say it's enjoyable.

Moments after finishing, being interviewed by the ranger.

The finish line.

Can't believe I made it to this rock. Reflecting.


If you compare this to the first picture you can distinctly see a difference in how my pants fit me. I lost over 25 lbs at one point. I started at 195lbs and weighed in at 172lbs when I finished. My waste actually became too small for my pack as I had trouble getting the hip belt tight enough. You can see in the picture how there is no strap left to tighten.

Me with my support crew. Thank you mom and dad.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July from Camera

Lake Whitewater, shortly after entering the Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest.

My first group of backpackers! They were finishing up a weekend 3 night trip I believe. I was brainstorming water options as I had run out on this 95 degree day. Didn't want to have to filter. Lucky for me the group topped off my 2 liters as they were eager to shed weight for the final couple hours. Thank you Laura(I believe) and company.

The man himself, Nimblewill Nomad. Check out his website I'll be making an appearance there soon. He has more miles on his feet than you do on your car. A true long-distance legend. His pack weighs a mere 6 lbs. Meeting him gave me great inspiration for days.  

Southeastern Wisconsin

After putting on 28 miles to reach Shelter #2 I stopped into the ranger headquarters to say hi and get water. Of course it was closed as I didn't arrive till 7pm or so. I knocked on the door and was questioned by a startled ranger. He didn't seem to know much about the Ice Age Trail and was very suspicious of me finding a place to camp. He did his job well but it was a bit frustrating to be treated as an outsider as he didn't believe the information I gave him and had to see my ID. I told him I was hoping to camp at shelter #2 which he counter by saying it was already reserved. I would go ask if they would mind me sleeping with them then, as there was no place else to go. He agreed advising me to call the headquarter so I was put on the list if they let me stay. He mentioned they were an easy going bunch. As I walked to shelter #2 the ranger ran to catch up with me. I'll ask them with you he said, I know them. No one was there yet when we arrived to we began conversation. The more he learned the more like able he got and by the time the campers got there he pretty much told them hey, this is Paul, he's gonna camp with you tonight.

Of course it wouldn't of mattered as the group with the shelter gladly opened there arms to me giving me immediate refreshment and fresh wrap from town.

We got along great, and liked just about everything in common.

I spent the night laughing hysterically and enjoying the company. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset, explored an old homestead, and ate pork chops for dinner.

This is the view from the shelter. I stayed up at late as I could, about 3am, before passing out in the shelter. It was way past my usual 9:30pm bedtime. This led to the latest start of my trip. Didn't get moving till after noon but my spirits were as high as they could be. Thank you again Jeff, Jessie, Megan, Zach, and Lindsey. I can't wait to see you again.

The next day as I was trekking over a huge savanna, I heard screaming in the distance. Of course it was the shelter group driving by in there cars, bodies hanging out the windows and sunroof cheering me on.

I still made great distance that day even though I had to walk later into the night. It was nice though, as the late cool air was a nice change from the usual relentless heat and sunshine. This picture is just before quitting time, on top of a observation tower. I enjoyed the tail end of a beautiful sunset as other onlookers bombarded me with questions about my trip.

I'm a sucker for this kinda stuff.

Just north of Delafield, thought it deserved a picture.

The next day I made it within a mile of my friend Dan's house where I played guitar mentioned in another post. Dan came out to hike the next day!

Holy Hill. Beautiful spot in a beautiful piece of Wisconsin that I was unfamiliar with.

And again.

We had a short walk on road before ascending Holy Hill. A dog ran out from a house and began to follow us. Try as we might, she would not return home. She ended up leading us down the trail for 2-3 miles up to Holy Hill. Her name was Millie, and I enjoyed her company, nicest dog ever. We were rather far from her home now and decided to call the owners to come pick her up. As Dan is on the phone a family comes down from the chapel on Holy Hill. Strangely, the kids are deathly afraid of dogs and a scene begins to develop as Millie goes over to greet them. Before I know it Dan is getting screamed at by the father who's demanding that he "CONTROL YOUR DOG!" and "PLEASE GET YOUR DOG!". Of course Millie only barely listens to us and we ultimately do not have control over her. Dan tries to explain that it's not our dog as he is still on the phone with the owners. We are accused with arguments "HOW DO YOU KNOW ITS NAME! ITS YOUR DOG! CONTROL YOUR DOG!" This frustrates both Dan and I as we are threatened with a call to the cops. In all the shouting I reach into my bag and pull out some of my beef jerky. Lucky this distracts Millie to the point where she will listen to me but only fuels the anger of the Family dad. He now has more reason to believe it is my dog and continues his threats and tantrum as his children and wife are weeping at the sight of this dog. Now I at least have Millie under control but the man will not stop harassing us as we try to explain that the owner is on her way and it is not our dog. I end up leaning into this man pretty hard with a furious pitch about how I walked over 900 miles to get here and had to sacrifice some of my jerky and if he would just listen he'd see. The owner shows up, even nicer than the dog. Thanks us gratefully and we explain to her what is going on. She doesn't understand the severity of the exchange and decides she can defuse the situation with a chat. Much to her surprise she gets screamed at, I'm not joking, screamed at. We now relate to each other as she thanks us and continues on. Dan and I continue our walk dumbfounded of what just happened. After all this, we both wished Millie was still leading us down the trail.


The next day Laura joins in the fun!

Much to my surprise I am invited for one last dinner after spending two nights with Dan's family. We go to a great restaurant that I believe is on the site of an old stagecoach stop. It's beautiful and I have the best fish fry of my entire life. Thank you Schwatz family.

The next day I am joined by Nate, Donnie, and Sam. We have a great day full of conversation. We move fast and everyone is dog tired when we finish. Wyatt and Evan(the little ones) join Nate and I for a mile the next day.

Picking a rare healthy patch of berries.

Just before quitting time, a beautiful overlook in which we can see where we started for the day. It's always amazing to look over the horizon and think that you stated so far away.

All together.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Last 5 Days

Well, it's a total of 40 minutes long and incredibly boring but here are the videos of my final 5 days.

I apologize for how uninteresting it is but I wanted to show the raw footage none the less.

Keep an eye out for me in the Chippewa Herald on Thursday!

Many pictures coming soon.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

July 21st

Earlier today I finished my 1100 mile journey in Potawatomi State Park. It took me 62 days and I already miss the sporadic throughts and daily routine. There is going to be tons of posts coming up soon so check back often. Lots of pictures, updates on sponsorships, and video of my last 5 days will be available for your viewing. Do what you love.



Saturday, July 14, 2012

VERY exciting as Paul has lots of friends to hike with him this weekend. Thanks to Don, Sam, Kate, Nate, Wyatt, Evan, and even Jeremy from Camp Manitou. Paul is north of West Bend and should be walking the Northern Kettle Moraine State Forest tomorrow. Thanks for checking in.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

July 11th

July 11th

Spending the night north of Hartland at my friend Dan's house. Beautiful spot with some new friends. Had the pleasure of playing some music on the porch, which continues as I write this. Pictures below.

The trail has been generous lately. I've averaged 25 miles the past 4 days and paid for it. I anticipate some lighter days soon. Loads of trail magic has kept the long days company. Two nights ago I stayed at Shelter #2 in the Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest. Lucky for me the group camping there for the night was generous enough to offer me a place to stay. Sure enough the group is wonderful, takes great interest in my story, likes to do all the things I like to do, and fed me, many times, as well as offered me cold beverages for as long as the night lasted. Thank you Jeff, Jessie, Megan, Zach, Lindsey. I hope to repay you soon.

Earlier that day, as my mom has told you, I had the pleasure of meeting a legendary hiker, Nimblewill Nomad, in his element, thru-hiking the trail in the opposite direction. I noticed him walking 'up and smiled knowing what a conversation I was about to have. First thing he says to me: "What the HELL are you doing!?" Needless to say is was a great 30min conversation that sadly had to end as we both wondered what was around the next corner of the trail. Keep an eye out for my cameo appearance on his website.

I estimate about 10-11 days of hiking left. Get out here if you can! This will most likely be my last weekend on the trail!