Amicalola Falls State Park

Amicalola Falls State Park

happinss, camping, hammock

So I’ve arrived at the park, shuttled up from Atlanta by Survivor Dave a great guy, I highly recommend his services.   He’s part of a network of folks down here that help shuttle people to the start of the trail. He took a photo of me at the arch on the park, should be on his website in a day or so.

The lodge at Amicalola is beautiful and I’m sure the park is as well but this is the current view from my room.

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Tomorrow I hike 5 miles up to the Hike Inn and then Thursday I’m on the trail.  This might be my last post for at least a few days.

As anticipated I’m a big ball of nerves and excitement can’t wait to get on the trail. Ready or not here we go!  I hope whatever adventure you’re involved with today that you are having a happy day my friends.  – Rev Kane

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Really amazing hiking story

A Really Amazing Hiking Story

happiness, appalachian trail

http://www.backpacker.com/special-features/gone-hiking/

A friend passed this on to me and I read it this evening and it is a truly amazing story that brought tears to my eyes.  I head into the forest tomorrow, on the trail Thursday, give it a read and have a happy day my friends – Rev Kane

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Finally moving toward the Appalachian Trail

Finally moving toward the Appalachian Trail

Michael Kane and John Stewart head for the AT

Michael Kane and John Stewart head for the AT

So finally today, I’m on the train and heading south.  It’s an emotional day, the first day of an adventure always is this way. Little sleep, wake up early, double even triple check everything and of course the one rule of travel.  You always forget something.   For me today it was both my debit and AAA cards.  Remembered the debit card in time, the AAA card is left behind.

Always a bundle of nerves initially and then standing at the station a woman cautiously walks up to me and says, “heading to Georgia?”  I smiled big, she was a 2008 thru-hiker and we had a great conversation.

Getting into Penn Station and headed for the train, it was my turn as I said to a couple, heading to Georgia?” They smiled big.  Turned out to be John Stewart so there were now two famous names heading for the trail.

On the train we fell into immediate and easy conversation, we have the same anxieties, questions, excitements.   We are all carrying too much food, right?  We immediately talk about gear, the hiker’s equivalent to how’s the weather. it’s nice to have this conversation, they are good people and I’m taking it as a good omen.

Today I’m traveling solo but not alone, I bring pieces of people with me both mentally and physically.

My medicine bag from KC with a drawing from my youngest niece, and Ganesh from Stephanie.

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I have a good luck charm from Kim and Lhakpa in Nepal.  A book from my family. A piece of a quilt from my friend Meleah, anything you carry on this trip has to be precious because weight is so important.

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We carry a lot in our heads as well and we hope to throw off that weight with the miles.  So to my three questions, what was the most beautiful thing I saw today, that would have to be the scenery out of the train window.

What made me happy today is easy, getting on the road.  What I learned today was that other thru-hiker’s are in the same space I’m in and that made for a happy day my friends.  – Rev Kane

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Hiking with the stars

So I’m on the train heading to Georgia and I’ve met another thru hiker his name is John Stewart.   So John Stewart and Michael Kane are thru hiking tge AT this year let the press know :)

Michael Kane and John Stewart head for the AT

Michael Kane and John Stewart head for the AT

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Appalachian Trail (AT) Happiness: On the Road

Appalachian Trail (AT) Happiness: On the Road

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I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom – how great is that? ~ Soledad O’Brien

So tonight is my last night before the journey starts, I’m excited and nervous and running a million things through my head. Tomorrow morning I will board an Amtrak train for Atlanta with a brief hour and a half layover in Penn Station. Enough time for one last legitimate piece of pizza before I leave NY. About 19 hours later I’ll arrive in Atlanta at 8AM on a Sunday morning.

Because it’s stuck in my brain I’ll share the worm, On the Road Again

I will spend two days in Atlanta, to see one of my best friends, kick around Atlanta a bit and pamper myself for a couple of days in a really nice hotel. On Tuesday morning I’ll jump on MARTA to hook up with Survivor Dave and a couple of other thru-hikers to head to Amicalola Falls State Park. I’ll transition easy into the thru-hiker life on the AT, a night in the lodge, then a 5 mile hike the next day to the Hike Inn for a less posh evening. Then finally the next morning after a year of planning and scheming, of buying sooooo much gear and changing my mind so many times about what to bring, I’m off.

happiness, hiking

The front door at the Hike Inn

My plan is simple, 8-10 mile days and an arrival into Neels Gap on the third day. The first few days will really be a live fire check-out run, get things dialed in and start to adapt to trail life. I look forward to when get up, tear down, hike, set up and sleep becomes a routine. The beauty of all of that is nothing about it will be boring or routine. I look forward to warmer clear nights where I can take the rain fly off of the hammock and stare up at the stars until I fall asleep.

1There will be so many milestones to look forward to, my first state border, then 13 more. I look forward to seeing my first bear, climbing Clingman’s Dome, then getting out of the Smokies, jumping off trail in NC and VA to visit friends, my first resupply run, my first hitchhiked ride, my first trail angel, my first successful yogi’ing and especially to my first new friend on the trail. There will be adversity of course, blisters, turned ankles or knees, sore feet, incredibly hard days, rain and I look forward to all of it. Truly, all of it is the experience because you never know how many of those 5,000,000 million steps to Katahdin you’ll get to take, but I’m hoping to take and relish every single step.

Lot’s of thank you’s to go out to folks, first to David Miller the writer of the AT Guide, AWOL is a great guy, super accessible and helpful, he was in fact my first pre-hike trail angel and I look forward to meeting him in person at Trail Days in Damascus. My friends and family who have been supportive even when they didn’t have an idea or understand why in the hell I’m doing this. To Scot Gauvin and the Potable Aqua ATCrew2015 and my fellow crew members, I look forward to seeing you all at some point on the trail, even if it’s a high five when you’re going SOBO. To Phoddo, a Twitter friend, it’s been great to have someone to stress with via Twitter. Finally, to the readers of the Ministry of Happiness, we talk a lot about living a happy life, so time to stop talking the talk and to fully start walking the walk and of course having many happy days my friends ~ Rev Kane

happiness, appalachian trail

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Appalachian Trail (AT) Happiness: Trail Angels

Appalachian Trail (AT) Happiness: Trail Angels

happiness, angel

Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver.                            ~ Barbara De Angelis

So tonight I thought I would talk about Trail Angels.  Now this is obviously a self-serving post for me and hopefully for my fellow hikers who are attempting a through hike this year.  A Trail Angel is someone who through kindness comes to the aid of thru-hikers.  This in its highest form could be allowing someone to stay in your home or helping an injured hiker get to a hospital or doctor.  However most of the time Trail Angels are folks who seemingly appear out of nowhere to give you want you desire or need.

The person who stops to pick you up while hitchhiking into town on a rainy day, and really, picking up a hairy, smelly, soaking wet hiker on the side of the road absolutely qualifies someone as an angel.  There are stories of folks who set up at access points on the trail and serve up hot dogs and cold drinks.  I’ve heard told of 6 packs showing up in streams along the trail with a sign saying take one.  There are lots of folks in trail towns who take people in or let them camp in their yard.  Chance encounters with day hikers can turn into gifts of food, water or cooking fuel.  Homemade cookies or brownies added to a drop box are always welcome, did you see that last phrase little sister!

happinessIf you are following a thru-hiker’s blog (really not just mine people) if you know they are going to be in a particular town or are picking up a drop box somewhere, you could send them a surprise.  Or, if you really want to make sure they get one, message them and ask them if you can send a box somewhere to them.  A couple of quick notes on being an effective trail angel:

1.  Send edible goodies! But not things in cans or anything heavy to carry.  If you do, it will be eaten immediately if possible, but likely will be put aside.

2. Unless you’ve communicated with someone, don’t send gear.  So many well-meaning people have offered me gear for my hike.  As kind as the offers are, they often really miss the point of what we are doing and the gear is usually far too heavy or ill-suited for our purposes.  Most of us have pretty extensively worked on our set ups and have what we need.

3. If you encounter a thru-hiker, kind words, a snack, an offer for a ride are great ways to instantly become a trail angel.  It doesn’t have to be something big, a small bag of Doritos could make a hikers whole day, some of that bottled water you are carrying that is really heavy, pour a little in our bottles and let us carry it for you.

4. If you are planning on going to the trail to give away some food or cold drinks, shoot out a message on Twitter with the hashtag #AT2015 with some details, that way hikers in the area can pace themselves out to take advantage of your kindness.

Hopefully you get the idea, you could even plan to meet someone at a point on the trail and bring a little something, but as the other person thru-hiking with her, could you bring a little extra, we all sure would appreciate it.

Here are some pieces about trail angels and the trail magic they provide, who knows they might give you some ideas, enjoy, and have a happy day my friends ~ Rev Kane

The Guardian Angel of Appalachia

Appalachian Trail Magic and Trail Angels

Trail Magic

More Trail Magic

A Town That Steps Up on the Appalachian Trail

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A Very Happy Thank You!

A Very Happy Thank You!

happiness

Happiness is not so much in having as sharing. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. ~ Norman MacEwan

Well my friends, I’m getting ready to set off on the Appalachian Trail and so I won’t be posting nearly as often.  Don’t worry, I haven’t forsaken you, I’ve scheduled some posts out each week until August 1st so you’ll have something to read.  Also, I’ll be posting hopefully at least once a week via my phone from the Appalachian Trail.

I wanted to take this time tonight to say thank you to all of you have followed this blog via Twitter, Facebook and especially those of you who are direct subscribers.  I get a lot out of writing this blog, I hope you get something out of reading it.

We continue to increase our reach and readership, 2014 nearly doubled 2013 in the number of views.  This year has started off with a bang, February is the third straight month that has set the bar as the month with the most views.  By comparison, by the end of February we’ll have as many views in the first two months of this year as we had in all of 2012, pretty good.  We’ve recently hit some milestones, 1600 Twitter followers (@ministryofhappy) and 2500 Facebook followers on the Ministry of Happiness Facebook Page.  Finally this week we will post our 750th post, seems like yesterday I was wondering if I’d ever make 100 posts.

So thank you, thank you my friends, this endeavor doesn’t mean much without you, your feedback and input.  So drop a note to say hi before I hit the trail and have a happy day my friends ~ Rev Kane

happiness, appalachian trail

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Appalachian Trail (AT) Happiness: Looking Like a Greenhorn

Appalachian Trail (AT) Happiness: Looking Like a Greenhorn

happiness, camping

There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more. ~ Lord Byron

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As I’ve mentioned previously I have undertaken planning to do a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail (AT). My hope is that I will walk all 2,200 miles of the AT from Springer Mountain, GA to Mt. Katahdin, Maine starting in late February or early March, 2015. This is my trail journal where I hope to take you from my decision to do this, through my preparation and then notes from the trail and hopefully all the way to Maine. All of this in my journey and process to live happy days my friends ~ Rev Kane

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So although I’m no means a novice hiker, I’ve done long hikes in Europe and Asia, I’ve hiked all over North America and even in the Amazon, I’ve never quite done anything like an Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hike. On some of my longer hikes they’ve been supported, think Sherpas and yaks. Some have had the opportunity to sleep indoors most nights, maybe not fancy, but damnit four walls, a door and a platform are great when it’s sub-zero outside. I’ve done more than my fair share of camping, but the challenge of the AT is that all of the challenges are rolled into one.

This will be long distance walking, there will not be any support to carry a load, and except for zero days there will be no four-walled, platformed sleeping option. So of course that means camping nearly every night, I’ll probably spend some nights in the trail shelters, you’re actually required to in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

I’ll be bringing a camping hammock instead of tent, it was a decision I weighed for a time, sleeping is far more comfortable in a hammock, however the tent would be lighter and warmer. In the early days of the hike, nights will be cold and it’s tough to keep a hammock warm without carrying extra weight. I believe I have a solution that will suffice, the real test will be sleeping outside in New York one night this week, it’s been a cold winter and I shouldn’t see anything worse on the trail than I will in the New York woods right now.

happinesss, camping, hammockI’m also bringing the hammock because at some level I’m somewhat anti-social and looking forward to the solitude the trail will afford me. I like people, scratch that, I like long-distance walkers. They have a tendency to be kinder folks with a great attitude on life. So I’m sure I’ll meet more than a fair share of good people and some I may even spend some time with on the trail. But I’ll be happy to avoid crowded shelters most of the time, and always happy to avoid mice, which annoy me to no end.

So putting all of this together, the AT will be in many ways a very new and exciting experience. When this journey starts, I am not likely to look like a very experienced hiker, first time out with my hammock set up (test runs are great, but nothing like the real thing and setting up in the wind and rain), newer cooking system and just the full routine of the trail. Initially I’m sure my PCT bear bag technique will leave something to be desired in its early day’s execution. My Tykek ground cloth is going to crinkle loudly, and until I get a few more nights under my belt there is always the potential embarrassing flip over event in the hammock. I had one the other day testing out my set up.

happinss, camping, hammockNow I know I will not be alone in looking a little green at the beginning of this hike. There will be people with far less experience than I have when they start out. There will inevitably be people who have made the mistake of never doing their full set up until their first night on the trail. So I’m sure I’ll be far from the most inept camper out there, but there’s something especially pointed about having other eyes on you when you’re feeling less than confident and things are going wrong. The most important thing to remember at those moments is to dissolve your ego, literally laugh out loud at yourself and be willing to swallow your pride and ask for help if you need it.

Or, be setting up alone off the trail in your hammock where no one can judge you and you can laugh at yourself as much as you need to until you get it right. So if it’s late in the day and your hiking up the Appalachian Trail and you hear booming laughter coming from a few hundred yards off the trail, feel free to shout a hello and come over and have a cup of cocoa with me. That way we can both have a happy day my friends ~ Rev Kane

Did you like this one, check these out….

Fear and Loathing on the AT

Appalachian Trail (AT) Happiness: My Thoughts So Far

Himalayan Travelogue: The Whole Thing!

And so it begins, Appalachian Trail or bust!

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Happiness and Guilty Pleasures

Happiness and Guilty Pleasures

Happiness, Mardi GrasIf no tourists came, we’d still have Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is a state of mind. ~ Ed Muniz

 

So tonight I guest posted for my longtime friend LeAnne on her fabulous Good for Spooning Blog, she’s doing Lent serious about Guilty Pleasures.  Give it a read and check out her blog, it’s centered around food and quite fabulous.  Have a happy day my friends ~ Rev Kane

 

 

 

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Appalachian Trail (AT) Happiness: Rules for the Road

Appalachian Trail (AT) Happiness: Rules for the Road

happiness, appalachian trail

It had nothing to do with gear or footwear or the backpacking fads or philosophies of any particular era or even with getting from point A to point B.

It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles with no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way.                             ~ Cheryl Strayed
As I’ve mentioned previously I have undertaken planning to do a thru-hike next year on the Appalachian Trail (AT). My hope is that I will walk all 2,200 miles of the AT from Springer Mountain, GA to Mt. Katahdin, Maine starting in late February or early March, 2015. This is my trail journal where I hope to take you from my decision to do this, through my preparation and then notes from the trail and hopefully all the way to Maine. All of this in my journey and process to live happy days my friends ~ Rev Kane
So as I’m getting ready to set out on my Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hike, I thought I needed some rules for the road to guide me on my way. The single overriding rule of course is to hike your own hike. What this means is that everyone is different and everyone has to do this journey their own way. Some people will be purists and hike every step of the trail, some folks will “blue blaze” taking some of the side trails that skirt some of the nastier parts of the trail. Some folks will have dedicated schedules and need to be very frugal, others, well not so much. So what these rules are for me are some guidelines to help me determine what hike your own hike means for me.

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Be happy and thankful for every step on the trail

First off this is a journey, there is a goal for me, Mt. Katahdin by my 51st birthday August 26, 2015. Hell, even better if I can summit on my birthday! But being too focused on the goal is to overlook two hugely important facts. First, only about 30% of the people who attempt this journey make it all the way through. Some quit due to things they control, many for things they can’t control. A stray step, a virus, the wrong mosquito, there are many things that keep even strong well-prepared hikers from finishing.
The second is the fact that the whole journey is estimated to be 5,000,000 steps. If you’re too focused on the five millionth step, you’ve missed out on all the joyful and amazing things going on for the previous 4,999,999 steps. So no matter how many steps I take from 1 to 5,000,000 I want to try and be mindful and enjoy every step.

Be friendly

I’m not always the most social animal but I really want to be more friendly than normal while on the trail for a number of reasons. First, I really want to connect with my fellow thru-hikers who in my estimation are on average a really wonderful group of humans. Second, you never know when someone out there is having a really tough day and good use a smile, a good word, a helping hand or a spare snickers bar.

happinessBe open to detours

THIS is an adventure, so for god’s sake take the right kind of chances. I’ve already done this in one sense, a new friend on Twitter (Phoddo) mentioned meeting up at Trail Days in Damascus, VA in May. My initial answer was I’ll pass, not into crowds or doing the typical hiker festival thing. Then I remembered why I’m doing this, adventure, fun, stretch yourself, so  I’ll be in Damascus for Trail Days. Although the hike itself will be amazing, I’ve heard so many great stories from previous hikers about side trips and misadventures they ended up in by just being open to stepping off the trail, that I have to be open to that sort of thing.

 

Try new things

Along the lines of the last rule, I need to be open to trying new things and getting out of my comfort zone. I don’t know what they will be yet, but I have to be ready. Of course June 21st is Hike Naked Day!

Meditate every day

Something I go through phases with in my life, I’m hoping to get into a regular meditation routine on the trail. It will help my mental health on the trail and given that this endeavor is easily as much a mental as a physical challenge it should pay a lot of dividends.

Write every day and answer the three questions.

This is already a solid routine for me and one that I really want to continue on the trail. Hell I bought a $15 space pen to make sure I could write under any condition! I’m hoping to put a book together around this adventure and I want to make sure I don’t miss a thing when I do. I also have three questions I’ll be writing on every day. What was the most beautiful thing I saw today? What did I learn today? What made me happy today?

happiness, appalachian trail

 

 

 

 

So there are other rules that I’m sure will develop as I walk, but this is a good starting point. As always happy to have you suggest some for me in the comments as well. Hopefully the rules will serve me well and help me have happy trail days my friends            ~ Rev Kane

 

Did you dig this, well check out these…

 

Appalachian Trail (AT) Happiness: Three Important Questions

Appalachian Trail (AT) Happiness: Beginnings

Appalachian Trail (AT) Happiness: My Thoughts So Far

Himalayan Travelogue: The Whole Thing!

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