Cape Fear River Podcast - Preparations in Raleigh
This is something that I've been meaning to get to for, oh, just about the last year. I used the GCast podcasting service to record a few pocasts via cell phone when I paddled the Cape Fear River last November. I've converted those files, and am in the process of archiving them on the website. If this goes well, I'm going to convert most of my analog micro cassette tapes that I recorded on the Mississippi River.

Mississippi River Expedition: Interview at Hannibal, MO
We'd been on the Mississippi River for about 40 days, and had made it to Hannibal, Missouri. This was an interview we did with one of the TV local stations (KHQA). The reporter, Sara Anderson, was the hardest working lady in Hannibal. She was also our waitress that night!

Appalachian Trail and Mississippi River: Changing the Blog Name
Appalachian Trail Map
As I was driving back from the ALDHA Gathering this past weekend, I has plenty of time to reflect on both my Appalachian Trail thru-hike and Mississippi River expedition. At first glance, these two things have nothing in common, but dig a little deeper and you'll find plenty of shared issues : clean water protection, open space planning, long-distance recreational travel, volunteer coordination, private / non-profit / government administration, and a host of others. More to the point, if I hadn't thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, I wouldn't have attempted to paddle the Mississippi, must less be writing a book about that experience.

For me, long distance travel is a means to an end, and the "trail between the ears" is often the richest experience of all. I'm changing the name of the blog to better represent the interests I have with the environmental protection, management, and recreation aspects of both Appalachian Trail and Mississippi River. I'm open to suggestions of where to take this, so join me for the ride.
Ode to a Mosquito
I wrote this piece of breathless prose way up in Minnesota after getting eaten alive one evening. The mosquitoes up there are unreal!

Ode to A Mosquito

Mosquito. Oh you @!*^%*# mosquito.
My loathing toward you has no bounds.
You are my nemesis.

No friend would torment me so.
Painful proboscis poking.
Suck, suck, sucking away at me.
There'll be no quarter for you.

Why must you torment me?
I’ve done you no harm, yet.
Come hither my pretty. Just a little closer.
Steady now. That’s it.

So small.
So insignificant.
Time for you to meet your maker.
Leave me be.

Mosquito. Oh you @!*^%*# mosquito!
If I were to Paddle the Mississippi Again
Overall, I think the trip went about as well as could be expected. Every long journey gives you more experience, and the Mississippi River trip was no different. There's an old adage that "Good judgement comes from experience, and good experience comes from bad judgement." That would be me.

If we were to paddle the Mississippi again, there a few things that I'd consider doing differently. First off would be to have more of a cash cushion to work with. Jess and I were both in the middle of our PhD programs at the time, and were your typical broke grad students. Having a little more cash to fall back on would have taken some pressure off many decisions, like whether or not to get a motel room when we probably could have used the rest.

I would have treated this more like a backpacking trip and carried less junk. We didn't have a cooler or dutch oven, but there were certainly things that we could have cut out or combined. There's a simplicity to cutting out almost everything and going lean that I've grown to appreciate.

The canoe worked out fine, but was larger than necessary from the headwaters down to Bemidji. Bemidji State University's Outdoor Program Center rents smaller (pre-scratched) canoes that would have been more appropriate for that first stretch.

We'll definitely have better rain gear along for the next trip. Paddling-specific clothing, with tighter cuffs and better design would have been great to have as it rained for the better part of the first month. My rain pants were marginal to begin with, and they failed completely about two weeks into the trip.

I was trying to get a newspaper article out once a week, sending out dispatches largely from libraries along the way. Next time I'd stretch that interval to every other week, and either carry a laptop or PDA / folding keyboard combination. Technology is changing rapidly, and there are already several products on the market that would make ideal small expedition computers for writing, sending photos, and getting info on the fly. Flash memory has gotten so inexpensive that we would probably just carry a few memory cards for the entire trip instead of juggling one card and burning cd's along the way.

We needed to have a firm ending date in order to get back to school, and that was a stress inducer for the entire trip for me. Next time around, we'll finish when we finish, ending dates be damned.

That's about it. Most of these are fairly minor, but collectively had a large enough impact on the trip to affect decisions along the way. Long trips are often a crap shoot as to whether they'll be successful or not, but it doesn't hurt to stack the cards in your favor whenever possible
Gear reviews and Appalachain Trail Thru-hiker study
As a part of my pledge to push the book out, I'm also going to be posting more blogs and articles on a regular basis. Be looking for more gear reviews over the next few weeks. I'll also be posting the very early results from my Appalachian Trail Thru-hiker Survey after it closes at the end of the month. I'm really excited to see how this turns out, as we're talking close to one million miles of trail experience. Very cool.
Book Update, and a Pledge
After months of life stuff, I'm now diving back in to finishing the last parts of the book. As part of this, I pledge to have a working copy in hand now later than December 31, 2007.

I've just added an additional excerpt called Flash Floods and Cheese Curds to the Book Excerpt section of the website. As always, this is a work in progress and I'd love to hear any feedback anyone has to offer.
Appalachian Trail Thru-hiker Study Update
I hope everyone is doing well and not melting from the summer heat. As of this morning, 406 thru-hikers have completed the survey - this is by far the largest dataset collected from a collective 900,000 miles of hiking!

I'm going to keep this survey open until 8/29, but then it's on to the data analysis stage. This will take several months to do a full-blown workup, but I'll have rough results in time for the Gathering in October.

If you know of anyone has attempted a thru-hike that still might be interested in completing a survey, feel free to send them to

Thank you again,

-John (Johnny Swank, MEGA 2000)
Get Busy Living, or Get Busy Dying
This is a blurb from my journal from the Mississippi River Expedition. Lots of thinking on that trip.

Get Busy Living, or Get Busy Dying

Been thinking about Dad today. He worked himself into the ground at the ripe old age of thirty-nine. I often wonder what he’d think about these kinds of trips I’ve been doing if he was still around. I wonder if I’d even be out doing these trips for that matter.

Sometimes I wonder just what I’m doing out here. Shouldn’t I be doing the respectable thing and be working at some job right instead of wondering down a river all summer? Wouldn't it be easier to just settle down and start going down the road that everyone else is travelling?

I feel as if I have a foot on two different trains going in opposite directions and I’m torn with which one to hop on to. If I continue with this PhD I’m probably going to end up with a decent job at a university with some time off to sneak outside every once in awhile. Then again, many professors seem to have abandoned that part of their life to chase tenure.

The other direction has me working some random jobs piecing together more of the things that really make me tick. An old friend of mine told me once that I’ll either be a graying professor somewhere or a chair maker. Right now I don’t know if I’d argue with that prediction.

I think that Dad's early passing affects how I look at all this. I could get run over by a bus tomorrow for all I know, but I spent years doing all kinds of stupid crap and I feel lucky just to be around right now. I feel like I wasted ten years of my life to finally get to this point, so now what am I supposed to be doing with myself?

I spent the better part of my twenties floundering around from school to school, job to job, and relationship to relationship. A decade lost to decadence and depression. I've always a tinge of regret to all those years, but I can't do anything about that now. Live and learn.

Now I'm here at the ripe age of thirty-five, winding my way down the Mississippi River with someone I'm passionately in love with. Not exactly sure how I ended up here, but I couldn't be happier. Jess has been a god-send, and I'm one lucky, lucky dude.

I don't think that just going through life based just on what feels good is any way to live. I’m not much into goal setting either, but it feels great to watch something that I’ve planned and worked hard for come together. I planned on being a professor, and now that what I've worked toward for the last five years gets closer I just don’t know if it’s worth it anymore.

I can’t obsess about this much more, and I’m not sure this trip is helping anything. Everyday is one hundred percent living. There’s not a moment that goes by that we’re not right in the middle of what’s going on around us. That’s a hard act to follow, and certainly harder to recreate back in the working world. I think about the Appalachian Trail every day even now, I’m sure this trip down the Mississippi is will be the same way. I swear it’s like a drug.

Do you go on some life-changing trip only to pine away for another for the rest of your life, or do you just work your way through and never really get to those super-high points? Those super-highs also come with some awfully low points in the end as well. I honestly can’t get my head around the whole thing.
Appalachian Trail Thru-hiker Survey
I am conducting this study of thru-hikers as part of my continuing interest and research on the Appalachian Trail. It is adapted from Roland Mueser's 1989 study, my own thesis, and other related literature. As you well know, much has changed over the last 18 years, and it is my hope that this study will be helpful in contributing to the body of knowledge related to the Appalachian Trail and its users.

If you have attempted a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, regardless of the mileage completed, please take a few moments to complete
this survey. Responses will be completely confidential. The survey is composed of eight pages, and pre-testers have indicated that takes about 30-45 minutes to complete. Feel free to "guess-timate" when you are prompted for numerical figures.

I anticipate that data collection will continue until August 2007. If you would like to receive results of the study, fill out the email address prompt on the last page of the survey. If you have any questions, concerns, or comments, please feel free to contact me at
Blast from the Past
This was a blast from the past. I was poking around on our website and ran across an interview with Greta Cunningham (Minnesota Public Radio) we gave while on the Mississippi River in 2005. There's an audio link on the top right side that I've never listened to. Good stuff!

That interview eventually found it's way to NPR's Morning Edition, which helped us get much more media exposure during the expedition and beyond. I'm incredibly grateful for Greta's time in helping us spread the news about the Audubon Society's Upper Mississippi River Campaign.

Krispy Kreme Challenge - 2007
I'm recovering today from running the 3rd annual Krispy Kreme Challenge. A couple of NC State undergrads cooked up this event a few years ago and it's grown by leaps and bounds. This year there were over 1,300 participants, and they raised $10,000 for the NC Childrens Hospital. I talked a few folks from the Carolina Rollergirls into signing up for this feat of masochism as well.

Here's the gist. Runners start at the NC State University Belltower, run 2 miles to the Krispy Kreme, eat a dozen donuts, then run back. In under an hour.

2,400 calories
140 grams of fat
4 miles

It takes a special kind of athlete to pull this off, but Auburn Staples won this year in an incredible 24:32!

Appalachian Trail Slideshows in North Carolina
I doing a couple of slideshows of my southbound AT thru-hke in 2000 in the next couple of weeks. There will be a question / answer session afterward, and I'll have some of my gear to play with as well. Come on out!

Here's the blurb from Great Outdoor Provision Company's Event's Page

John Pugh (GOPC Staff) will be presenting a slideshow from his 2175 mile Southbound Thru-Hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2000. Slideshow will be followed by a AT Prep Overview (he will have his pack!) and Q/A session. This is a great event for aspiring Thru-Hikers, past AT hikers or those who love the outdoors!

Wed, Jan 31 - Greensboro Shop : 7pm
Thurs, Feb 8 - The Garage, Winston-Salem : 7pm

More Info from the GOPC Blog

Marmot Driclime Windshirt Review
There is one piece of gear that I own that get used more than anything else - my Marmot Driclime Windshirt. I swear I live in this thing daily for at least nine months out of the year. I'm wearing it right now as I'm typing.

I've posted a review of this thing on our Gear Reviews page. I had sold this jacket for years but never understood what all the fuss was about. Now I know, and I'm totally sold on it.
New Thru-hiker Articles posted
I've been writing spree lately about thru-hiking and posted some more stuff on the Articles section. With the thru-hiking seaon coming up, I started with some general ideas on Thru-hiking on the Cheap, and I just posted an article about Cutting Down on Town Time.

Let me know what you think.

Budgeting for a Thru-hike

At one point in time, potential thru-hikers could budget about a dollar per mile to cover their expenses on the trail. That day has long since past, with the average thru-hike costing about $3,000 - $4,000 dollars for on-trail expenses. Add to that figure your travel costs to and from the trail, medical expenses, equipment both before the trip, and living expenses immediately after you return. While $4,000 sounds like a lot of money (and it is), consider that your living expenses for 5-6 months back in the "real world" are likely much higher and it becomes sort of relative. At least that's the way I justify it.

Where does all this money go? All you're doing is hiking for six months, right? Wrong.

Here's a few common things you'll need to buy on the trail.

Food: This will probably be your biggest expense on the trail, especially "town food." All that pizza, beer, and ice cream adds up quickly, and only the most determined can get in and out of town without eating a meal somewhere. I budget about $7 per day just for trail food.
Lodging: This probably the second largest expense. It only take a few overnight visits to town to see how quickly hostels, motels, and other lodging adds up.
Major Gear replacement
Shoes and socks
Phone cards/long distance charges
Postage for maildrops, letters, and equipment sent home.
Stove fuel
Extra activities like movies or trips off-trail
Magazines and newspapers
Internet Cafes

I'll address some of these individually in future sections, but for now, I have another article that will give you head start on how to cut your expenses called Thru-hiking on the Cheap.

Thru-hiking: What I'd do Differently
In 2000, I spent six months hiking the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia. That experience has had a tremendous influence on what I'm doing now, and I still think about it on a regular basis.

That trip wen fine for the most part, but If I were to do another thru-hike I'd change up several things. I've posted these in a longer article, Thru-hiking: What I'd do Differently in the Articles section.
Keeping your sleeping bag dry
Let's face it - trying to sleeping in a wet sleeping bag is miserable. I've posted an article on How To Keep Your Sleeping Bag Dry in the Articles Section. Use these tips and never have a wet sleeping bag again.
Thru-hiking on the Cheap
I had just a shoestring budget for both the Appalachian Trail thru-hike and Mississippi River Expedition, so every dollar had to count. Check out my penny-pinching tips and tricks in my new article "Thru-hiking on the Cheap."
Ziplock Wallet
It's always the small things that get me excited about trips. One of these is my ziplock wallet. I always empty out my regular wallet and put the bare essentials in a quart-size freezer bag. Just my license, debit card, and a few business cards. That's it - that's all I need.

I've carried a ziplock wallet on all my trips. Breaking out another bag reminds my of the Appalachian Trail thru-hike, Mississippi River trip, and tons of other activities done outside. When I finished the AT, I carried that same duck-taped bag for several months afterward as I just wasn't ready to jump back into the real world.
Crazy NC Town Names
OK - I'm from the big city of Climax, NC. As such, I have an affinity for goofy sounding town names.

At some point I'm going to write a full article about this, but just for kicks here are a few town names I dug up recently.

Bat Cave
Boger City
Farmers Store
Frog Level
Frog Pond
Meat Camp
Pumpkin Center

Towns of Royal Distinction
Kings Creek
Kings Mountain
Royal Oaks
Royal Pines

And, ahem, OTHER towns
High Point
Stocking Stuffers for Paddlers
Have a paddler on your Christmas list but don't know what to put in their stocking? I've added a page of things that will delight anyone who likes to canoe or kayak. All are under $25, so it won't break Santa's wallet!

Here's the link to the
Stocking Stuffers for Paddlers page.

468x60 Travel

10 Things Cooler than Television on the Mississippi River

1. Watching from thirty feet away as a Great Blue Heron plucked a fish out of the water.
2. Listening as about four hundred pelicans took off while we floated by. They sounded like a bunch of white-feathered helicopters.
3. Paddling and sailing with a great tailwind on Lake Winnibigosh for about thirty minutes. Nothing like being scared silly while making good time.
4. Full moons, quarter moons, and every moon in between.
5. Getting stared at by bald eagles. Staring back.
6. Watching a porcupine wander around camp trying not to stick itself.
7. Thinking. Lots and lots and lots of thinking.
8. Listening to the red-wing blackbirds serenade us.
9. Watching the loons dive underwater and pop up twenty yards away.
10. Meeting some great people. Real salt of the earth folks.
Ten Things I (re)learned on the Cape Fear River
1) Round things roll. Round drybags roll downhill really well. Fishing drybags out of the river with a paddle first thing in the morning is no fun.
2) Portaging sort of sucks. It builds character though, I guess.
3) Portage wheels and carts are cool. I don't have a portage cart.
4) Feet are happier if warm.
5) So are hands.
6) Its good to just sit in the sun sometimes.
7) Canoes are easier to load and unload, but a kayak is better in the wind.
8) Pogies work better if not frozen solid.
9) I really, really hate when my tape recorder dies.
10) I'd spend the rest of my life doing these trips if I could.
Kayak Funk
When you're sealed up for in a kayak for several days on end, bad things are going to happen. The cockpit of the 'yak becomes a chemistry lab from hell.

The combined fermentative effects of sandals, feet, mud, water, heat, sweat, and god-only-knows what else is enough to knock you down. All those individual smells combine into a sort of toxic cocktail suitable for neither man nor beast.

Sometimes I just cringe when I'm about to pop the sprayskirt off. Knowing the noxious gasses about to be released is enough to give anyone pause.
Krispy Kreme Challenge
4 miles
12 doughnuts
2400 calories
1 hour

I'm so doing this. The race is 2 miles to the Krispy Kreme store on Peace St in Raleigh, NC, eat 12 donuts, and run 2 miles back, in under an hour, without puking if possible.

Here's the "race" details
Krispy Kreme Challenge 2007

I'm getting a team up, so if you're in the Raleigh, NC area or want to get in on this superior athletic endevour, give me a holler. Registration is $10, and all proceeds to the NC Children's Hospital.

For info on how Krispy Kreme makes those delicious little donuts from heaven, check out . This segment of How Stuff Works was even filmed at the Raleigh store on Peace Street where the race is taking place!

Thank you for your support
I just want to thank everyone who emailed, called, and visited the website during the recent Cape Fear River Expedition. Your support really meant the world to me when I was wandering "what possessed me to be out here freezing my tail off?"

A few special thanks need to go to the following folks. Thank you again for your continued support.

Jessica Robinson - the most patient fiancee' a guy could every wish for
Betty and Kelly Fields - my folks, who may think I'm nuts but rarely say anything about it.
Larry and Candice McGuire - future in-laws, who also may think I'm nuts but rarely say anything about it.
Donald and Britt Woolley - patience by the bucket
Great Outdoor Provision Company - long-time sponsor extraordinaire
Astral Buoyancy - keeping me afloat
Eagles Nest Outfitters - great hammock to get some rest
Level Six - our new Canadian friends. Awesome paddling jacket, eh?
Pacific Outdoor Equipment - keeping my gear dry
Native Eyewear - sunglasses permanently attached to my face
Wake County Department of Environmental Services
Cape Fear Riverwatch
Pine Environmental Services
Cape Fear River Assembly
Cambellton Landing and Riverside Sports Center
Greensboro News and Record

Technorati Spiders on the Loose
Technorati Profile
Just a quick post so the Technorati spiders can find me!
Blogging, Technorati, and a pledge

I've been intending to get our regular blog more in line with the rest of the world for about three months now. I think I'm getting closer.

I've fixed a couple of goofy links, learned about Technorati Profile and a few other submission sites, and am going to commit to posting on a more regular basis. I WILL finish the book on our Mississippi River expedition done soon and I need to get my virtual act together.

I love learning about this stuff, but man it's a pain wandering through the darkness sometimes.
If anyone has any suggestions on how to improve the blog, submission sites, adsense (or any other revenue), driving traffic, etc, I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Cape Fear River Photos
Photos now up for the most part. Still playing with a few from the first day but will have those up by Tuesday. Got a few photos of the Marine S.E.R.C boats for you guys. I've also got a recording of them taking over Lock#2 with all hell breaking loose. I'll put that up as soon as I convert my microcassettes to MP3's.

The photos are at

Transcribing journals and waiting for my water quality folks to give me the word on the test results. Should have that together in the next week.

Still available to talk/email with any school classes that are interested. I'm also scheduling slideshows for the early spring for civic, scout, environmental, or other groups in the NC area.
Rollerderby and Blues, baby
You've got to have a hobby, and when we've not working, going to school, or going on a trip, we've still got plenty to keep us busy.

Jess is a member of the Carolina Rollergirls, slamming down the competition under the name Lucy Lastkiss. Opponents fear her Shoulder Of Doom when she comes flying out at them. I volunteer with these folks, helping set up the track and do some of the always-needed gruntwork. My alter-ego there is Juan Fantastico.

The Carolina Rollergirl's website tells it like it is:
The Carolina Rollergirls' derby is NOT a wrasslin' style circus act. Staged fighting has been replaced with walloping take-outs. Our fast-dodging jammers are too hungry for points to slow down for silly acrobatics. But the hits keep getting harder every season, and we like to show off every chance we get!

Flat-track roller derby requires skill, strategy and a fearless defiance of good sense. Our game is a fierce competition, fired by a rock n' roll attitude & a free-wheeling spirit. We may be a mischievous crew of shenanigan-charged ladies, but when the whistle blows, playtime is over.

I play a lot of slide acoutistic blues, and try to get out and play with the Triangle Blues Society a few times a month. You always have to have an alter-ego, so my stage name is Johnny Swank.That's also the trail name I used when I hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2000. Come to think of it, Juan Fantastico was Johnny Swank's alter-ego on the trail as well. Sometimes I feel like i need a roledex to keep all these nicknames sorted out.
At least 8 killed in Riegelwood, NC tornado
Last week I walked 2.5 miles from a boat ramp on the Cape Fear River to Riegelwood to buy a newspaper and find out the election results. I'm beside myself with this news, and my condolences goes out to those families and that community.

Hold the ones you love close.


At least 8 killed in Riegelwood, NC tornado on November 16, 2006

Cleaning up
Plenty still to do to around here after the trip. I need to transcribe my journals and post, thank you notes, lots of writing, and get back into the groove of things.

clothline of gear
First off is getting the gear put away, and that means cleaning and drying a ton of funky stuff. After a couple of weeks of fermenting on the water, the smells that rose up from my pile of gear could knock you down flat. Gear is never quite dry while paddling, so stuff starts to develop a funk all its own.

Just the facts, ma'am

I'm kind of a numbers dork, and while I'm paddling for ten hours a day, I have nothing to do besides figure out all manner of minutia concerning the trip. Here's the facts, and nothing but the facts, about the Cape Fear River Expedition.

1) 160,000: the approximate number of paddle strokes taken.
2) 6: number of cans of chicken consumed.
3) 10: days spent paddling.
4) 4: AA batteries used for the GPS and tape recorder.
5) 8: number of days between showers.
6) 7: Aleve painkillers taken.
7) 16' 5": length of the Hurricane Tracer sea kayak used.
8) 48: approximate number of energy bars consumed.
9) 1: number of capsizes.
10) 1: number of hydration bladders lost as a result of said capsize.
11) 190: miles paddled
12) 4.75: miles walked (roundtrip) to a convenience store in Riegelwood, NC to buy a newspaper with the election results.
13) 5: approximate number of square inches with poison ivy as a result of the trip.
14) 8'x10': size of my tarp to go over the hammock.
15) 6: Gatoraide bottles purchased during the trip.
16) 1/2: tubes of sunscreen used
17) 3: nights below freezing.
18) 2: pogies that work better when they're not frozen to the paddle.
19) 4,500: average number of calories burned daily.
20) 48: approximate number of bottle of water consumed.
21) 11: water quality samples taken
22). 1: exceedingly patient fiancée' that stayed at home while I paddled the river.
North Carolina Connections
North Carolina Connections
Beyond the Cape Fear River itself, there are several North Carolina connections to this trip. The primary sponsor for this expedition will again be Great Outdoor Provision Company, based out of Raleigh. I will be paddling a kayak designed and manufactured by Hurricane Aqua Sports, a company out of Warsaw, NC. My life jacket is designed and constructed by Astral Designs, who are located in Asheville. The camping hammock I'll use is made by Eagles Nest Outfitters, also from Asheville.
Being a North Carolina kid from the big city of Climax, I think it's great to be associated with all these NC-based companies. It's like paddling a big southern-fried hug.
Podcasting from the Cape Fear River
OK folks - this is going to be pretty cool. I've embedded a page on the website that will allow me to record things on the river in real time and have them posted online! Basically I'll call in, record my musings, then hang up. In a couple of minutes it'll show up on the webpage and you can listen in on all the action.

You can listen to a test recording I made last night. I'm going to be using a microcassette recorder for almost all my journals and will put up some after the trip is over.

To access the podcast page directly, go to the Source to Sea podcasting page. You can set up a RSS feed, or sign up for free email updates whenever a new podcast is added.
Interactive Mapping for Cape Fear River Trip!
Oh man I am pumped! This is something I really wanted to do on the Mississippi River but had no idea how to pull off. The gist of it is that I can now uplink directly to a GoogleEarth map from any internet connection and have it automatically update a map on the site. You look at the map, place the curser over one of the location buttons, click the mouse, and a new window pops up with information that I've entered, maybe a photo, and commentary from the river.

Here's what it looks like:

Pasted Graphic

You can zoom in for a closer view.

Pasted Graphic 1

Pretty cool.
Food for Paddling and Backpacking
Just thinking about what I'll be taking on this next trip down the Cape Fear River. After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail and paddling the Mississippi River, I'm really burnt out on most of the usual stuff. I can't stand the thought of oatmeal after overdosing on it on the trail, and I'm just now being able to emotionally handle pasta after the river.

I'll take some of the regular powerbar/clif bar things, and maybe pack a couple of freeze dried meals in case I get lazy and just want to shove down something, but most of my food is going to be from scratch.

I'm trying out some new stuff this time, based on the site
Freezer Bag Cooking. There's some awesome recipes on there, and you can even buy the book for more ideas. Freezer bag cooking is based on pre-packaging you food in freezer bags, pouring hot water in the bag, then putting the bag in a "cozy" made out of insulating material to hold in the heat. You use less fuel because you don't have to simmer, there's not pot-stirring, and no pot to clean at the end of the day. Here's a recipe off their site.

Cranberry Chicken Rice:

In a quart freezer bag put:

1 cup instant rice
1 Tsp. Chicken bullion (low sodium)
1/4 Tsp. salt, if desired
1/2 Tsp. granulated garlic
1 Tsp. Parsley
1 Tsp. Dried Onion
2 Tbl. Dried veggie flakes or freeze dried mixed vegetables
2 Tbl.+2 Tsp. Craisins

Put all items in a quart freezer bag.

Also take a 3-5 oz. can of chicken with you.

In camp put the chicken and it's liquid into the freezer bag, and 1 1/4 cups boiling water. Stir well and put into a

cozy for 10 minutes. This is great with 2 cups water as a soup.

Serves 1.

Tasty, tasty, tasty!

I'm also making up a big batch of
Ultralight Joe's Moose Goo. The name sounds horrible, but this stuff is great. It's a combination of peanut butter, corn flour (masa), and honey, and you use it as a spead on tortillas, crackers, or straight from the jar like I usually do. Highly recommended.

I'm going to fix my recipe for the
World's Easiest One-Pot Meal at least once, because it wouldn't be a trip if that wasn't on the menu. It brings back lots of good memories.

Give me a holler if you have any food ideas. I'll add a page to the site as they come in.
Cape Fear River Expedition
Things are really heating up for the Cape Fear River Expedition. I will be paddling 200 miles down the Cape Fear River, beginning November 1 from Jordan Lake in central North Carolina. Along the way I will be taking water quality samples and reporting results from the river. Podcasting in real time is also on the table as soon as we work o a few bugs.

I'm also working with several science classes by giving class lectures on water quality in the Cape Fear Basin, interacting with students and teachers via email, and communicating throughout the trip about my experiences. If your group or class would like to participate in this unique experience, feel free to
contact us.

Sponsorship is beginning to come together as well. Great Outdoor Provision Company is again acting as lead sponsor,
Astral Buoyancy is providing a personal floatation device, and Eagle Nest Outfitters is supplying me with a camping hammock and related hardware. My utmost appreciation goes out to these companies for their support.

Calling all Science Classes!
I'm going to be working with several science classes during my paddle down the Cape Fear River in November. I'll be doing water quality testing, and reporting the results from the river in real time along with an interactive map showing the location and GPS coordinates. I will also be conducting some school talks and slideshows after the trip.

If any groups or classes would like to participate, please feel free to email us. The more the merrier.

-John Pugh
Getting my mojo back
For whatever reason, I feel like I'm finally getting my mojo back. I'll admit it – I've been a freakin' mess since we got off the river last year. I don't know what it is about long trips, but after both the Appalachian Trail and Mississippi River I fell into a morass of depression that took forever to shake off. The last year has been like walking through a fog, and I wouldn't wish this past summer on anyone.

Watch out world. I'm coming to kick your butt.

Butt Inertia
Butt Inertia

"A butt at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. A butt in motion will stay in motion if it just gets off the couch."

~John Pugh

I’m a slothful individual. I can heat a house with burnt time. I slid just under the tax deduction wire by being born on December 31st. Odds are I’ll to be late to my own funeral. You get the picture.

That said, I think the only way to achieve anything is to just get off your butt and start. Just getting a goal and starting toward it is the big thing. Details work themselves out over time so don’t sweat the small stuff to begin with. Any progress is good progress. Just do something.

Tell people what your plans are. Parents, family, friends, strangers off the street, it doesn’t matter. Some will be supportive. Some will say you’re a fool. Listen to the former but don’t ignore the latter. It helps to have people to face up to when you’re scared out of your wits and want to quit. Peer pressure isn’t always bad.

Taking the chance of falling on your face occasionally is good for the soul. When I’m old and grey(er) I don’t want the regret of not trying something just because I was lazy or doing busy work. Life’s too short for that. My father passed away when I was four and I doubt if given the option he would have asked for more time in the office. This trip down the Mississippi was one of the hardest things I’ve done but also the most fulfilling.

I was a wreck for months before we started. Sleepless nights thinking about details, worries about failure, and nagging doubts about doing the right thing were all part of the process. Once the canoe hit the water everything fell into place. Of all the miles, the first one was the sweetest. Just getting out of the rat race and trying something else was its own reward.

I made a deal with myself at the end of my thru-hike to do something cool at least every five years. That could be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, biking across the country, or building a house from scratch. Anything to get off my butt and do something besides watch the years go by. If nothing else, I’ll have some good stories to lie to my unconcieved grandkids about.

The first and hardest thing is to get off the couch and start. Once that butt inertia gets going, it’s all downhill from there.

Growing my beard out again
Enough of this smooth face stuff - I'm growing my beard back. I can feel the testosterone OOZING out of my face!

I either need to get Rogaine or Nair for my face. I hate shaving, but it takes me awhile to get by beard together. Speaking of which, I've always dug this pic from the Mississippi River. It says it all about that period of our lives on the river.riverdance

Yeah - I'm a dork.
The End of the Sweet Tea Drought
I had a HUGE glass of sweet tea at Bojangles the other day and thought about this journal from the river. God bless sweet tea, and all those who make it.

June 25, 2005
Hannibal, Missouri
1045 miles

The End of the Sweet Tea Drought
Pasted Graphic
I’m from the south, raised in the grand metropolis of Climax, NC. Sweet tea is just a matter of life in the south, as is barbeque. I’m not going to get into the argument on western vs. eastern-stylebarbeque, as I think its best to not take contentious religious matters lightly.
I have not seen or heard about any sweet tea in 47 days from the time we left North Carolina to drive to the backwoods of Minnesota. It was a dark point in my life, and not to be repeated if at all possible. That black cloud of despair lifted yesterday.
We rode into Hannibal to take in the sights and eventually ended up at Bubba’s Catfish House for dinner. Looking over the menu, the first thing I skimmed over the entrees, side dishes, or desserts, and scanned their drink selection. Looking past the array of soft drinks, coffee, and beers, I found the Holy Grail. One simple, glorious statement—Tea: sweetened or unsweetened
The heavens parted and a soft ray of shimmering light shined on the menu. A choir of angels sang out the Alleluia Chorus.
We ordered a round of that precious nectar then asked them to just leave a pitcher at the table. After almost a month and a half without that delicious liquid, my thirst was finally quenched.

It’s the little things that make all the difference.


Rituals are important for Jess and I. Little things make a world of difference when you're putting you head down in a different place every night. We take an inflatable pink flamingo along on every trip. Flo the Guard Flamingo watches out for us when we’ stuck in the middle of some kind of maelstrom or another. We haven’t died yet so I guess she’s doing her job.

Another ritual is the unwrapping of a peppermint patty to finish the day. That’s not to say that I won't unwrap those tasty treats any other time-I’d eat the whole bag if I knew I wouldn’t be sick as a dog. During my thru-hike I'd have to ration the patties out carefully because I could only carry so many. I would sit on a cold log somewhere and gently peel back the wrapper, savoring the pepperminty scent as it wafted in the air. Slowly, I would eat away those delicious chocolaty edges then woof down the core. No matter how crappy things have been, everything's all right as long as there’s a patty waiting for me. There’s some serious mojo packed into those things.


Setting up the tent the same way each night is another part of our routine. My watch and headlamp are always wrapped around a water bottle. That bottle gets put next to my sandals. Jess puts her book and glasses in the gear loft and her headlamp stays in the mesh pocket by her head. I sleep on the right side of the tent. She sleeps on the left. This feels all nice and homey, but more importantly it helps to know where your headlamp is when you’ve got to pee in the middle of the night.

Twizzlers - the perfect trail food
I was going through some old links on our website when I ran across this interview we did with Minnesota Radio. That spot aired on Morning Edition as well, and really helped to get the word out about the expedition. I'm forever grateful to Greta Cunningham for driving down to Red Wing and recording that session for us.

She asked what we were eating on the river among other things.
We gave the standard answers about cooking once a day, eating lots of calories, and all that stuff, but then I had to admit that Twizzlers were kind of a staple too. I'd like to blame this on Jess's mom, as she gave us a big bag of those things before we left, but that would be a cop-out. I'm more the junk-food junkie of the two of us by far. When I hiked the Appalachian Trail, I had a horrible, horrible diet. Looking back, I can't believe all the junk I ate - peppermint patties by the pound and snack cakes galore. Little Debbie and Swiss Miss were my inamoratas on that trip.

We ate much better on the river, and I credit Jess for that. I felt better and stronger as a result.

I can't help but get nostalgic every time I pass by the Twizzlers at the grocery store. They really bring back some good memories of paddling down Big Muddy. That's my excuse for buying them again and I'm sticking to it.

I'm not an addict. I can stop any time. Really.
Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail thru-hiking

The Appalachian Trail (AT) is a 2,175 mile trail down the Appalachain Mountain chain running from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Katahdin in Maine. It's within a day's drive of over half the population of the United States, and about 6 million folks a year step foot on the AT.

In 2000, spent six months hiking the AT from Maine to Georgia. In many ways that time out on the trail changed everything for me.

Pasted Graphic
I had spent 1o years thinking about hiking it, and finally after a divorce and all sorts of other personal drama I decided to get off my butt and make a go of it.

That first step was the sweetest of them all-just getting everything together and taking a risk to do something that had been festering around for a decade. It was the hardest six months of my life, but I wouldn't trade that experience for the world.

As I was finishing, I made a deal with myself to do something cool every five years. I don't want to look back and regret not doing something when I'm old and grey. Besides, it gives me better stories to lie to the grandkids about.

Here's a few links to some of the better Appalachian Trail and backpacking resources. Feel free to give me a holler if you have any questions about the AT or long-distance hiking.

Take care,


World's Easiest One-Pot Meal
If you're looking for the easiest recipe for a one pot dinner ever, here it is. No measuring!

World's Easiest One-pot Meal
This was the first meal I ever cooked for Jess. We were helping lead a school trip in the Okefenokee Swamp when I saw what she had in her foodbag. Nothing but packages of dried soup, pretzel sticks, wasibi peas, and other unmentionables. That wouldn't do, so I said I would just take care of the food. Since then we've probably eaten this a hundred times. We take this on every trip.

Eyeball measurements are fine. Most of the time I'm lucky if I can find my spoon much less measure anything.

World's Easiest One-pot Meal (serves two)

12 ounces of pasta (any kind, we like the tri-colored twist type)
4 ounces or so of Italian dressing (about half a small bottle)
3 ounces of cheese (whatever you have. We use cheddar and parmesan)
1 small onion
3-4 carrots, chopped
1 small can of pineapple chunks
salt and pepper to taste
green onions
Whatever else you want to throw in (nuts, spices, garlic, chicken, etc)

In a 2-liter or larger pot, boil the pasta until soft. Don’t overcook, and watch to make sure it doesn’t boil over. Drain the pasta and return to the pot. (Hint: cut the bottom four inches off a one-gallon milk jug and stab some holes into the bottom. Voila—Instant strainer!) Dice up the cheese, onion, carrots and dump in. Open the can of pineapple, drink the juice, and then stir in the chunks. Add whatever else you have on hand. Stir in the Italian dressing. Eat until you see the bottom of the pot. Burp. Go enjoy the sunset.

Selected excerpt from the book Source to Sea:A Journey down the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers
Release date: October 2006
Copyright 2006

Writing on the River
I’m a big fan of using the right tool for the job when getting words down on (virtual) paper. I like to write but I hate dragging anything out in the field that I don’t have to. On the other hand, I’m not very good at transcribing my journals from a notebook into a document file.
I wrote a series of newspaper articles during both my Appalachian Trail thru-hike and Mississippi River trips for the
Greensboro News and Record. During those trips I was largely dependent on public libraries for their computers and Internet access to post articles and photos. While libraries are wonderful about letting me use their systems, this isn’t the most optimal set-up for many reasons. Hours of operation, distance from where I was staying, and just the issue having to go to one more place just to upload 1,000 words and a few photos. There’s got to be a better way. Maybe there is.
For the next trip I’m planning on using something like a
Palm 680
with a folding keyboard for writing and photo management. As is stands now, I do most of my writing at home on an old Handspring Visor and folding keyboard that I can’t manage to kill. I love the convenience of just whipping out the PDA and hammering out a few words at the drop of a hat. For just getting words on paper, it’s hard to beat. The battery life on those old black and white units are incredible—I’ll go for about three weeks on a set of AA’s. The downside is that I don’t have WIFI or a card reader for the photos with that setup.

We did use a Pocketmail email device for much of our short emails on the river. It was very easy to upload and download text emails, but no provision for photos. There’s an audio modem on the back, so you just dial a toll-free number from any phone, hold the unit to the receiver, then get you emails. Very handy.

I’ve also demo-ed a unit from
Alphasmart called a Dana. It’s a Palm-based unit that’s the size of a thin laptop, with a great keyboard and usable black and white screen. Batteries last about 40 hours, and it has built-in (but slow) WIFI. For just basic word processing, this is thing is great, and it’s built like a tank. But then there’s no real provision for photos...
What I want is a flash-based PDA with lots of memory, built-in WIFI, folding keyboard, and a battery life of at least 20 hours. That, and a benevolent benefactor to foot the bill for another long trip.

Rain and Heat - You can't win

Rain and Heat

Rain can be a funny thing. Not necessarily funny - HA, HA, but funny “Oh this isn’t going to turn out good” Thirty-five degrees and raining is the worst combination. You can’t stop moving because you’ll promptly freeze. Freezing is bad. You can’t go too fast because you’re sealed up in a waterproof-breathable cocoon and would roast. All things considered, I'd rather stew in my own juices than get cold. There have been times I would have killed to have another layer of clothes add under my raingear just to stay warm. Even a gore-tex condom would have been appreciated.

Heat is another issue. I’m a dainty flower and start to wilt when it’s gets hotter than hell’s half-acre. Not really, but given my druthers I’d rather deal with the cold than the heat any day. Seeing as we’ll be rolling into Mississippi and Louisiana sometime in late July or early August, I probably need to get over this.

Actually, once you get acclimated to the heat it’s not that big of a deal. I try and tell myself this when I’m sweating my tail off and the mosquitoes are feasting on what’s left of my curdled blood. The power of positive, delusional, thinking.
Boredom on the River?

Boredom can be the hardest thing to deal with while out tramping around for weeks at a time. I've heard all about this idealized view of constant inspiration of nature’s beauty. I’ve spent hours myself just looking at the clouds or some kind of gelatinous larvae rolling around in a blob of goo. Most of the time there’s plenty to think about and look at. Other times, however…

Part of long-distance traveling is dealing with sheer, unadulterated, boredom. Out of that boredom can come the creation of all kinds of mental and physical diversions to amuse yourself until the next neat thing lands in your lap. I’ve held conversations, mostly one-sided, with chipmunks, rocks, mud, trees, and the beforementioned gelatinous larvae rolling around in a blob of goo.

We played games of “throw the rock” and “jump over the creek” just to pass the time while on the river. I probably skipped two hundred pounds of rocks by the time we hit Morgan City. Anything to keep my brain from just melting from boredom and leaking out the ears. I might just need that thing someday.
Dipping my toes into the Blog River Dipping my toes into the water
Well folks, I've been dragged kicking and screaming into 2006 and am now setting up a blog. I'm be posting a few more snippets from the book, news from the river, and a few other things to to start off with.

Let grow this thing together - I'm open to any comments or suggestions you might have.